A person's surname can influence their career, experts claim
A person’s surname can influence their choice of career, experts believe.
Scientists are exploring the theory that people are drawn to certain trades and professions based on the connotations of their surnames.
The phenomenon can be observed among famous figures such as the World champion sprinter Usain Bolt or the 18th century poet William Wordsworth.
However, serious research is now being dedicated to the concept – known as nominative determinism – to explain why it occurs.
New Scientist magazine coined the term after observing that the subject matter of a series of science books and articles bore relevance to the authors’ surnames.
John Hoyland, the magazine’s feedback editor, said: “A reader wrote in to tell me that they’d come across a paper on incontinence in the British Journal of Urology which was written by J W Splatt and D Weedon.
“I had noticed, as it happens, on the same day in the office, a book on the arctic called Pole Positions: The Polar Regions and the Future of the Planet, by Daniel Snowman.
“These two things went together in my mind and I thought there’s something going on here.”
Research is now being undertaken in search of an explanation for the phenomenon. A paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology has concluded that people are disproportionately likely to “choose careers whose labels resemble their names”.
The paper entitled Why Susie Sells Seashells by the Seashore: Implicit Egotism and Major Life Decisions cites the disproportionate number of dentists called Denise or Dennis as an example of the trend.
Authors Brett Pelham, Matthew Mirenberg and John Jones concluded that the phenomenon occurs because people “prefer things that are connected to the self (for example, the letters in one's name)”.