Study: People Look Like Their Names


Researchers at Hebrew University in Yerushalayim have published findings that indicate that people “look like their names.”
An article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by Dr. Ruth Mayo and doctoral candidate Yonat Zwebner posited evidence that a person’s name can influence the way they look. In other words, if your name is Zalman or Feiga, chances are that you look like a Zalman or a Feiga.

Participants in the research were asked to look at portrait photos of strangers and then choose from a list of names which one was most likely the person’s real name. The face-name match-ups were correct significantly more frequently than random choice would suggest.

For example, participants correctly chose “Dan” 38 percent of the time, from a list that included Jacob, Dan, Josef and Nathaniel. A random guess would have been correct only 25 percent of the time.

“Our research demonstrates that indeed people do look like their name,” said Mayo, a senior lecturer in the psychology department. “Furthermore, we suggest this happens because of a process of self-fulfilling prophecy, as we become what other people expect us to become.”

“A name is an external social factor, different from other social factors such as gender or ethnicity, therefore representing an ultimate social tag. The demonstration of our name being manifested in our facial appearance illustrates the great power that a social factor can have on our identity, potentially influencing even the way we look,” added Mayo.

In many cases, it wasn’t even necessary to view the entire face of the subject. Results of name-face matchups were better than random after seeing only the person’s hairstyle. This suggests that odd notion that people choose the hairstyle that goes with their names.

They also found that computers could beat the random odds in matching 94,000 names and faces.

Mayo and Zwebner say they are encouraged by the findings to continue the research. Questions remain to be answered, such as why it is that some people have a very high face-name match while others have a low match.

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