Your Name May Tweak Your Destiny

Initials May Make or Break Grades, Baseball Strikeouts, and More

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on November 15, 2007
From the WebMD Archives

Nov. 15, 2007 -- Your name may help put you at the head of the class or leave you in the strikeout column, a new study shows.

The researchers report that MBA students whose first or last names start with the letters A or B tend to make better grades than those whose names start with C or D.

What's more, Major League baseball players whose names begin with the letter K strike out more often than those whose names don’t start with K, the letter used to record strikeouts.

So say Leif Nelson, PhD, and Joseph Simmons, PhD, in December's edition of Psychological Science.

Nelson works at the Rady School of Management at the University of California at San Diego. Simmons works at Yale University's School of Management.

Together, they studied the effect that certain initials have on certain measurements of success.

They also found that law school applicants whose names began with A or B were more likely to get into top-ranked law schools than those with other initials.

What gives with the name game?

Nelson and Simmons suggest that people have a subtle bias toward the letters in their monogram.

"For example," they write, "Toby is more likely to buy a Toyota, move to Toronto, and marry Tonya than is Jack, who is more likely to buy a Jaguar, move to Jacksonville, and marry Jackie."

So they reason that Christine may not find a C grade quite so bad as Anna.

To test the theory, the researchers presented online word puzzles to 225 people. Before tackling the puzzles, the researchers mentioned prizes for success or consolation prizes for failures.

The prizes were labeled with a letter, such as "Prize X."

When their first names matched the initial on the consolation prize, they solved fewer puzzles.

Of course, the researchers aren't suggesting that anyone judge a person by their name.

There's no reason Kevin couldn't be a baseball star. And the theory doesn't cover the whole alphabet, so William and Zena aren't doomed to bad grades.