Your career choice, place of residence, and spouse, apparently.
I recently ran across the phenomenon known as “egotism” or sometimes “implicit egotism,” which is the statistical probability that the letters that form your name will in some way correspond to or predict what career you go into, where you will live, and who you will choose for a spouse or partner.
In a thumbnail: People named Dennis or Denise are very likely to become dentists. Dennis and Denise are also likely to live in Denver. And, they are also likely to marry someone with a surname that begins with the same letter as their own: a Smith would more likely marry a Sanchez than a Zelig.
The research on egotism was begun by U Buffalo psychologist Brett Pelham and you can read more about him on his homepage, as well as reading the initial study, which was published in 2002. Previous scholarship had posited the “name letter effect,” which holds that people have positive associations with the letters in their own names. Subsequent scholarship has pursued the implications for egotism on other “life choices,” such as a recent study that showed that names influenced people’s responses to disaster and charitable giving: someone named Katherine was more likely to donate to a Hurricane Katrina fund, for example.
This is all very interesting to those of us who study language and literature and who find ourselves often trying to make the case for the power of language and the constructedness of reality or identity. In ENGL 2350, I often struggle to explain the structuralist/deconstructionist idea that there is no reality outside of language/the text — my skeptical students are confident that they know reality as well as the difference between what’s real and what’s written, and they have a hard time embracing the proposition that what they know is shaped by the language system in which they exist. Maybe Pelham’s statistics can serve as more persuasive fodder for a discussion of these issues?
Of course, there are many out there who will recoil from the idea of name as destiny. In fact, we would scoff at a creative writer who constructed a character named Dennis who was a dentist who lived in Denver. What a lack of imagination!, we would say.
So what do you think? Has your name determined your life choices?
– Desiree Henderson