Bad News for People With Hard-to-Pronounce Names

(Photo: Fady Aziz)

If you have one of those names that people are always struggling to pronounce, we have some bad news for you. 

A new paper (ungated version here) by Simon M. Laham, Peter Koval, and Adam L. Alter finds that an easy name may confer advantages. The authors conducted five studies comparing easy- and hard-to-pronounce names (like Vougiouklakis or Leszczynska, for example): “Studies 1–3 demonstrate that people form more positive impressions of easy-to-pronounce names than of difficult-to-pronounce names.” While the first three studies focused on surnames, a fifth study analyzed both the first and last names of lawyers within law firms and found that “lawyers with more easily pronounceable names occupied superior positions within their firm hierarchy … The effect was independent of firm size, firm ranking, or mean associate salary.”  Furthermore, the authors found that “the effect is independent of name length (Studies 1, 2, and 4), orthographic regularity (Studies 1, 2, and 4), unusualness (Studies 1 and 3), name typicality (Study 3), and name foreignness (Study 5).”

Laham hopes the research will open people’s eyes to their own unrecognized biases: “Such an appreciation may help us de-bias our thinking, leading to fairer, more objective treatment of others.” 

(HT: Cyril Morong)

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  1. Leszek Leszczynski says:

    Being almost shown as a negative example (Leszczynska is just a feminine version of my surname), I am deeply concerned.

    However, I recall being in Paris one time, in their adorable science museum, seeing (to my delight) that the Polish language deserved a mention in the “hardest languages” alley, being illustrated with “Przest?pstwo” – good luck, English speakers.

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  2. TobysMommy says:

    So what you’re saying is my son, Tobias Xander, will never succeed? I don’t think so. “Toby” is REALLY easy ;)

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  3. Emily says:

    Hmmm. My favorite is “How do you spell your ‘Emily’?” Apparently, people here in the South like to screw it up any way they can–Emmalee, Emmily, Emylee, Emmaleigh. Ugh! It’s easy–5 letters, 2 hard consonants.

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