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What’s in a Name?

That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet. But that which we call a person, by any other name might look just a little bit better, according to Amy Perfors, a graduate student in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. Perfors recently discovered that the vowel sounds in people’s names can affect how attractive they appear to others. She posted pictures of people with names displayed on them on a website where users can rank pictures based on how attractive their subjects are. She found that certain names resulted in higher ratings, even when the pictures were identical. Her study showed, for example, that men with names like Steve or Bill—that is, names whose vowel sounds are produced with the tongue pushed forward—appear more attractive than they would if they had names with “back” vowel sounds like Paul or Luke. For women, the back vowel sounds in names like Laura or Julie make them appear more attractive than if they had front-vowel-sound names like Tina or Jill.

Perfors presented her findings this past summer and was met with a media flurry. Some reports stated that people with one kind of name are more attractive than people with another, but Perfors isn’t making such claims. She says that in this specific circumstance, the sound of a name has been shown to affect attractiveness.

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Tagged: Communications

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