What’s in a Name? A Lot, Actually

We’ve all met someone that we thought looked like their name. It sounds odd, but there are Nathaniels that look like Nathaniels and Jacobs that look like Jacobs. The correlation between names and faces may be deeper than what most people think.

Is there a reason that your name matches your face?

According to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, there is. The study is an interesting one, and it suggests that a person “lives up to their name,” appearance-wise. The study, conducted by Dr. Ruth Mayo and Yonat Zwebner, involved showing color headshots of people with one of four names to complete strangers.

And, much to my surprise, it turns out that a person’s given name can influence their appearance.

Random strangers, given a group of boy names, were correctly able to identify Dan 38% of the time, well above the random average of 25%.

The researchers went a step further and also controlled age and ethnicity. Computers were also used in the study, with a very high degree of matching names to faces. Computers were able to work through names and faces at a much higher level than humans. Computers were shown 94,000 faces and were able to pick the correct name and face at a statistically high level.

Names and faces were even able to be matched outside of a person’s own culture.

But does this have to do anything with our face? Maybe the face-name prototype was a reason for our parents picking our name.

Nope.

The study points to what they call a “self-fulfilling prophecy.” Researchers wanted to see what the results would be if they showed just the person’s hairstyle to an observer. Could the person still choose the right name, at a higher level than chance, by just seeing a person’s hair style?

Yes.

Researchers suggest that people may even choose their hairstyle based off of their name. As it turns out, we may not be as unique as we perceive ourselves. We grow into the stereotype of our name, even facially, so the study suggests.

An interesting twist in the study, which wasn’t done as far as I can tell, is if people could pick out unique names that are starting to pop up.

Unusual names are becoming very popular. Julia Wang of The Bump told CBS, “definitely uniqueness over conformity. They are naming children after colors, after fruit.” An interesting tidbit, according to Wang, is that between 1985 and 2004, the number of names doubled.

It would be interesting to see if random observers could choose these unique names. Royalty, Messiah and Maximiliano, names that are now being seen in the Social Security register, don’t have stereotypes attached to them.

What will these people look like or model themselves after?

It will be interesting to find out.

Social structuring, or the social factor of our very name, seems to play a role in how we look and even the hair style that we choose. The study suggests that in the future, they may introduce a person through various stages of their life to determine if a younger Dan is matched at a higher rate than an old Dan, or vice-versa.

About the Author
 Jacob Maslow is passionate about writing. For more than ten years, he's used that passion to transform the web presence of a number of legal and medical professionals in creative, innovative and effective ways that get them noticed in a crowded field. Jacob is originally from Brooklyn. He packed up his five children and made Aliyah in 2014. Jacob's experience and varied interests lend themselves to a diverse palette of topics ranging from technology, marketing, politics, social media, ethics, current affairs, family matters and more. In his spare time, Jacob enjoys being an active member of social media including groups on Facebook and taking in the latest movies. 
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