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There’s scientific evidence that your name can affect the direction of your life

Published Jun 14th, 2024 9:15PM EDT
names on a wall
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Names have power. It’s a pretty common trope in fantasy books. Even here in the real world, some people believe that the influence of names on the careers people choose can be very real. That’s the basic idea behind nominative determinism. While it might seem crazy, there’s actually some anecdotal evidence that supports the idea.

A new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology takes a deeper look at the idea of nominative determinism, which is a theory that someone’s name can make them psychologically predisposed to choose a career that somehow matches to their name.

There are a lot of examples out there to support the theory, including some really well-known ones—like Doug Bowser joining the ranks of Nintendo’s employees or Usain Bolt being considered the fastest man alive. In these instances, it’s really easy to see their names and their occupations, and I believe that the influence of their names might have helped lead them there.

office desk handshake
Two office workers shake hands across a desk. Image source: Andrey Popov/Adobe

But, of course, it’s also easy to write this all off as pseudoscience. That’s why researchers from the University of Utah decided to do their own research. They found that there’s actually copious amounts of anecdotal evidence to back up the theory—though it definitely isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.

According to their study, the researchers looked at data from more than 3,400 people to see how much influence names have on our choices. They found that when limiting their searches to single-word queries, the chosen cities and professions of people often matched up with the first letter of their first name.

In fact, it happened so much that the researchers do not believe it could just be purely coincidental. And it isn’t limited just to modern times. The researchers also found that nominative determinism seemed to be a prevalent trend throughout history, though it did diminish as more people turned to higher education.

Of course, it’s still a pretty “out-there” theory, and this anecdotal evidence doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptions to the rule. Still, it’s hard to ignore the evidence that is right in front of us, even if it doesn’t always line up.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.