Susan sent me this paper by Leif Nelson and Joseph Simmons:
In five studies, we [Nelson and Simmons] found that people like their names enough to unconsciously pursue consciously avoided outcomes that resemble their names. Baseball players avoid strikeouts, but players whose names begin with the strikeout-signifying letter K strike out more than others (Study 1). All students want As, but students whose names begin with letters associated with poorer performance (C and D) achieve lower grade point averages (GPAs) than do students whose names begin with A and B (Study 2), especially if they like their initials (Study 3). Because lower GPAs lead to lesser graduate schools, students whose names begin with the letters C and D attend lower-ranked law schools than students whose names begin with A and B (Study 4). Finally, in an experimental study, we manipulated
congruence between participants’ initials and the labels of prizes and found that participants solve fewer anagrams when a consolation prize shares their first initial than when it does not (Study 5). These findings provide striking evidence that unconsciously desiring negative
name-resembling performance outcomes can insidiously undermine the more conscious pursuit of positive outcomes.
I just love this kind of stuff. Here’s the data on grade point averages for students whose names begin with A, B, C, D, or other letters:
I don’t have anything to add here, beyond my comments on the paper by Pelham, Mirenberg, and Jones on dentists named Dennis (see here, here, and here). On one hand, it seems pretty implausible to me that kids whose names begin with C and D are really sabatoging themselves like this. On the other hand, hey, there are the data. An effect of 0.02 in GPA is pretty tiny, on the other hand if it were much larger I wouldn’t believe it . . . It would be interesting to see the average GPA’s for all 26 letters, also looking at both first and last names.
P.S. In a comment below, Derek posted a hypothetical improved graph with all 26 letters, I had it up, but I removed it since it’s not actually real data!