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Unformatted text preview: Research Article Moniker Maladies When Names Sabotage Success Leif D. Nelson 1 and Joseph P. Simmons 2 1 Rady School of Management, University of California, San Diego, and 2 School of Management, Yale University ABSTRACT In five studies, we found that people like their names enough to unconsciously pursue consciously avoid- ed outcomes that resemble their names. Baseball players avoid strikeouts, but players whose names begin with the strikeout-signifying letter K strike out more than others (Study 1). All students want As, but students whose names begin with letters associated with poorer performance (C and D) achieve lower grade point averages (GPAs) than do students whose names begin with A and B (Study 2), especially if they like their initials (Study 3). Because lower GPAs lead to lesser graduate schools, students whose names begin with the letters C and D attend lower-ranked law schools than students whose names begin with A and B (Study 4). Finally, in an experimental study, we manipu- lated congruence between participants initials and the labels of prizes and found that participants solve fewer anagrams when a consolation prize shares their first initial than when it does not (Study 5). These findings provide striking evidence that unconsciously desiring negative name-resembling performance outcomes can insidiously undermine the more conscious pursuit of positive outcomes. People like their names and initials (Nuttin, 1987). In fact, this name-letter effect (NLE) is influential enough to encourage the pursuit of name-resembling life outcomes and partners. For example, Toby is more likely to buy a Toyota, move to Toronto, and marry Tonya than is Jack, who is more likely to buy a Jaguar, move to Jacksonville, and marry Jackie (Brendl, Chattopadhyay, Pelham, & Carvallo, 2005; Jones, Pelham, Carvallo, & Miren- berg, 2004; Pelham, Mirenberg, & Jones, 2002). Do people consciously or unconsciously pursue name-re- sembling outcomes? Do a few people named Jack deliberately move to Jacksonville for its Jack-resembling appeal, or are they driven by an unconscious desire? Researchers have certainly argued that the latter is true. The NLE is described as an indi- cator of implicit egotism (e.g., Koole, Dijksterhuis, & van Knippenberg, 2001; Jones et al., 2004; Pelham, Carvallo, & Jones, 2005; Pelham et al., 2002; Sherman & Kim, 2005), as own-name liking is thought to indicate unconscious self-liking. At least two types of evidence support this idea. First, the NLE correlates more strongly with explicit self-esteem when explicit self-evaluations are made under conditions that deter conscious thinking than when explicit self-evaluations are made under conditions that promote conscious thinking (Koole et al., 2001)....
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