The study was conducted by Dr. Simon Laham at the University of Melbourne and Dr. Adam Alter at New York University Stern School of Business.
For the study, researchers analyzed how the pronunciation of names can influence impression formation and decision-making. In particular, they demonstrated “the name pronunciation effect,” which occurs when people with easy-to-pronounce names are evaluated more positively than those with difficult-to-pronounce names.
The study found:
• People with more pronounceable names were
more likely to be favored for political office and job promotions;
• Political candidates with easy-to-pronounce names were more likely to win a race than those without, based on a mock ballot study; and
• Attorneys with more pronounceable names rose more quickly to superior positions in their firm hierarchies, based on a field study of 500 first and last names of U.S. lawyers.
Laham, the lead author,said subtle biases that we are not aware of affect our decisions and choices. “Research findings revealed that the effect is not due merely to the length of a name or how foreign-sounding or unusual it is, but rather how easy it is to pronounce,” he said.
Laham said the results had important implications for the management of bias and discrimination in our society.
“It’s important to appreciate the subtle biases that shape our choices and judgments about others. Such an appreciation may help us de-bias our thinking, leading to fairer, more objective treatment of others,” he said.
Researchers conducted studies both in lab settings and in a natural environment using a range of names from Anglo, Asian, and Western and Eastern European backgrounds.
To read the full paper, visit http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022103111002927.