What's In A Name?

What's In A Name?

What you're called can affect whether others think you're hot ...or not. Hear what a new study revealed about this surprising connection.

By Natalie Ermann
ure, we all know that looks and personality count when it comes to impressing a love interest. But, according to a recent study, your name plays a role in the reaction you get, too. MIT researcher Amy Perfors posted pictures of men and women on the website, where thousands of
Women with names like Laura, Robin, or Carmen were deemed hotter than those with names like Melanie, Jill, or Ann.
strangers rated the attractiveness of each one. Perfors' surprising finding: The name attached to a photo impacted how attractive the individual was rated.

Which names cast the most positive glow? Perfors says it's all in the vowels. Linguists classify vowels according to where in the mouth they are sounded: either "front" vowel sounds (like the "e" in beet or the "i" in bit) or "back" vowel sounds (like the "o" sound in food or hot). In Perfors' study, men with names that had front-vowel sounds (like Dave, Ben, or Rick) were rated more attractive than those with back-vowel sounds (like Luke, Tom, or Charles).
“If you look like Brad Pitt, you'll be more attractive than Jim Schmo, regardless of your name.”
The results for women were just the opposite: They were deemed hotter when they had names with back-vowel sounds (like Laura, Robin, or Carmen) than names with front-vowel sounds (like Melanie, Jill, or Ann).

The study also looked at the masculinity or femininity of a name. Men with feminine or androgynous names (like Jamie) were less attractive than guys with masculine names (like Dave or Steve). For women, a very feminine or a very masculine name (like Brittany or Max) was judged more attractive than an androgynous name (like Lee). "I'm not sure why that is," Perfors says, "but I bet it has to do with the fact that in our culture, it's OK for a girl to be a tomboy or have more 'male' traits, but still largely unacceptable for a guy to have female traits."

While these findings are certainly interesting, should those of us with "less attractive" names begin pulling our high-school nicknames back into circulation? Not necessarily. Perfors warns against reading too much into her study, since it's just a preliminary study—and since, in the long run, appearance and personality are still more important. "If Jud and Jim Schmo are otherwise equally attractive, then Jim, who has the 'better' name, is statistically more likely to be rated attractive," she says. "But if you're Brad Pitt, you'd be more attractive than Jim Schmo regardless of your name."

Natalie Ermann is a freelance writer in Charlottesville, Virginia. Alas, her name is "unattractive," but she's keeping it, thanks.
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