Marge: You changed your name without consulting me?
   Homer: That's the way Max Power is, Marge.  Decisive.
The Simpsons

In honor of Will Powers and his theories about self-control, today I would like to talk about my favorite bias ever, the name letter effect. The name letter effect doesn't cause global existential risk or stock market crashes, and it's pretty far down on the list of things to compensate for. But it's a good example of just how insidious biases can be and of the egoism that permeates every level of the mind.

The name letter effect is your subconscious preference for things that sound like your own name. This might be expected to mostly apply to small choices like product brand names, but it's been observed in choices of spouse, city of residence, and even career. Some evidence comes from Pelham et al's Why Susie Sells Seashells By The Seashore:

The paper's first few studies investigate the relationship between a person's name and where they live. People named Phil were found more frequently than usual in Philadelphia, people named Jack in Jacksonville, people named George in Georgia, and so on with p < .001. To eliminate the possibility of the familiarity effect causing parents to subconsciously name their children after their place of residence, further studies were done with surnames and with people who moved later in life, both with the same results. The results held across US and Canadian city names as well as US state names, and were significant both for first name and surname.

In case that wasn't implausible enough, the researchers also looked at association between birth date and city of residence: that is, were people born on 2/02 more likely to live in the town of Two Harbors, and 3/03 babies more likely to live in Three Forks? With p = .003, yes, they are.

The researchers then moved on to career choices. They combed the records of the American Dental Association and the American Bar association looking for people named either Dennis, Denice, Dena, Denver, et cetera, or Lawrence, Larry, Laura, Lauren, et cetera. That is: were there more dentists named Dennis and lawyers named Lawrence than vice versa? Of the various statistical analyses they performed, most said yes, some at < .001 level. Other studies determined that there was a suspicious surplus of geologists named Geoffrey, and that hardware store owners were more likely to have names starting with 'H' compared to roofing store owners, who were more likely to have names starting with 'R'.

Some other miscellaneous findings: people are more likely to donate to Presidential candidates whose names begin with the same letter as their own, people are more likely to marry spouses whose names begin with the same letter as their own, that women are more likely to show name preference effects than men (but why?), and that batters with names beginning in 'K' are more likely than others to strike out (strikeouts being symbolized by a 'K' on the records).

If you have any doubts about the validity of the research, I urge you to read the linked paper. It's a great example of researchers who go above and beyond the call of duty to eliminate as many confounders as possible.

The name letter effect is a great addition to any list of psychological curiosities, but it does have some more solid applications. I often use it as my first example when I'm introducing the idea of subconscious biases to people, because it's clear, surprising, and has major real-world effects. It also tends to shut up people who don't believe there are subconscious influences on decision-making, and who are always willing to find some excuse for why a supposed "bias" could actually be an example of legitimate decision-making.

And it introduces the concept of implicit egoism, the tendency to prefer something just because it's associated with you. It's one possible explanation for the endowment effect, and if it applies to my beliefs as strongly as to my personal details or my property, it's yet another mechanism by which opinions become calcified.

This is also an interesting window onto the complex and important world of self-esteem. Jones, Pelham et al suggest that the name preference effect is either involved in or a byproduct of some sort of self-esteem regulatory system. They find that name preferences are most common among high self-esteem people who have just experienced threats to their self-esteem, almost as if it is a reactive way of saying "No, you really are that great." I think an examination of how different biases interact with self-esteem would be a profitable direction for future research.

New Comment
139 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since:
Some comments are truncated due to high volume. (⌘F to expand all)Change truncation settings

The "Players whose names start with K tend to strikeout more" study, is, I believe, flawed. It's true that K names struck out more historically, but that's because K names (Kyle, Kevin, etc.) are much more common now, when strikeout rates are high, than they were in previous generations, when strikeout rates were low.


That's it, I'm naming my first child Utility.

A more useful application of this might be to assign people temporary names during hypothetical role playing to influence how they behave or what lessons they take away. I see this as a subtler version of what happened in the Stanford prison experiment. It would certainly reinforce the process: making someone a guard is one thing, what if they were given the a badge labeled "Lt. Punisher"?

3Eliezer Yudkowsky
Okay... just going by the sound of the syllables, it doesn't sound that bad... but I really don't know what that would do to the kid's life, y'know what I'm saying? I once met a kid named Vanyel. I asked him if he was named after Vanyel Ashkevron. He said "Yes". "Cool," I said, and I meant it, but I was also thinking "What the hell were his parents thinking, naming him after the most famous gay character in all of fantasy?" It's not that it's a bad name for an adult to take for themselves, but it's not really the sort of decision you should make for a child.
My first instinct was to agree with you. My second instinct was to think, "Does that mean I should not name my child after a straight character in fantasy, either?" And if I should not, that rules out... just about every name that comes from the Bible, doesn't it? ;)
It probably wouldn't rule out David.
The only Biblical name I had in mind was Ruth. Which, really, would be after a great aunt of mine, but the name comes from a Biblical character perhaps best known for following her mother-in-law around after being widowed. I think "maybe you'll be gay" is probably a less damaging message than "maybe you'll be straight, you'll get married, your husband will die, and then you'll live with your mother-in-law in a foreign country". I do plan to name a first daughter after a fictional character (not a biblical one; Ruth is the prospective middle name of a second daughter) and I picked one with a mellifluous name, who displays various positive character traits throughout the four-book series in which she appears. However, the fact remains that I'm planning to name a kid after a fantasy princess who gets married in her teens to a king she's known for a very short time and lives happily ever after save some troubles with evil wizards and who then goes on to raise her son alone for sixteen years on account of some trouble with the evil wizards. Is this inauspicious? Does it matter?
There's a kid who will never worry about coming out to his parents, should it be necessary.
Well, going by the study, I guess Utility will end up working for a power company and maybe living in Utah. Vanyel will end up in some job where he drives a van in Vermont. Or rather, they'll have a slightly increased chance of doing so. Realistically, people will think Vanyel is a foreign name. Same for Utility, until they see it written out. EDIT: missing word
Seconding Alicorn. I haven't read the books, but one would imagine that there's more to this character than simply his being gay.
4Eliezer Yudkowsky
Sure. But it's a central plot point of his stories, nonetheless. I think that if I would object to someone naming their daughter Utility, then it's fair enough to worry about someone naming their son Vanyel. Or Singularity Smith or Humanist Hugh. Names shouldn't mark children for their parents' politics. Change your own name if you want to make a statement like that. And if they just really liked Vanyel the character... I'm sorry, but you've got to be realistic about what shows up on Google.
Invalid analogy. The name under discussion is Vanyel, not Downwithheteronormativity or Queer Quentin.
So one should not name one's child Elton, then, as a gay character shows up prominently in the search results? Is being okay with homosexuality a matter of politics?
Sadly, it is now. Maybe in a hundred years, Eliezer will approve of Vanyel's name for children born at that time? Maybe if he'd lived a hundred years ago he'd have criticized people for naming children after characters of other races, or after characters who associated as equals with other races?
6Eliezer Yudkowsky
I'll say it again: It's not the job of parents to make that choice for children. If you want to grow up and then change your name, great! (We could use with a tradition of that anyway, so that people have a chance to outrun all the Internet posts they made before they were 21 years old.) But the job of parents choosing a name for their child is first and foremost to be concerned strictly about their children, as they will be as children and then as adults. Candy is a great name for a 4-year-old daughter, not so great for a future Board member of a Fortune 500 company. I'm glad my own parents didn't actually name me Luke Skywalker Yudkowsky, for example, or Hen3ry or any of the other cute names they considered. Or even Hari Seldon Yudkowsky - it probably wouldn't be a help to me in my life. Children and their names shouldn't be pawns in that sort of game - even with the best possible motives and fighting the best possible battles.
What choice? You don't seem to be advocating calling children "eldest son" or "second daughter" until they reach the age of majority and accept a name that reflects their adult personalities, so I don't think you mean that parents should not name their children. And every name carries with it a history and a connotation and a sound - even made-up collections of pretty syllables carry the "my parents made up my name, isn't that wacky" connotation. Which ones pass your threshold of not having the wrong connotation or history or sound? It can't be avoided entirely; should we, in your opinion, restrict ourselves to names that are X years old or have X existing popularity or that X% of randomly quizzed people think is a pretty normal name?
Indeed - I'm puzzled about what choice Eliezer meant. Eliezer seems to be advocating not naming your child anything that might be in any way weird, which causes me extreme cognitive dissonance when I consider that he thinks 'Eliezer' is okay.

Eliezer seems to be advocating not naming your child anything that might be in any way weird

I'm not sure avoiding mere weirdness is the point, the point is to avoid any name with associations or permutations that would make one's child easier to tease during childhood, or be taken less seriously during adulthood (e.g. "Candy"), or experience a higher risk of any other negative outcome.

As someone who has experienced childhood bullying, I'm glad that my name didn't give the bullies any additional ammo. If the bully is trying hard enough, they can make fun of just about any name, but some names are easier to make fun of than others.

The child having a positive outcome in the world (meaning the real world of the present, not the world that should be) is more important than parents' exercising their creativity, self-expression, or statement-making, political or otherwise. A child is not a vanity plate.

3Eliezer Yudkowsky
Well said. Yes, they should have put VANYEL on their vanity plate, not their kid.
Any talk about positive outcomes refers to a world which should be; positive is in your utility function, not in the territory. There is much more to life than happiness and popularity. For myself, I would rather be unhappy and an outcast than bludgeoned into conformity. Maybe Vanyel cherishes his name and his history, and would despise his counterfactual analogue who had been named Mike. You can't say it would be doing a service to Vanyel to have named him Mike, for if the child had been named Mike, he would have a different childhood and our Vanyel wouldn't exist. The most you can say is that it's better to create a Mike than a Vanyel, because Mike is likely to be happier. All parents try to raise their children with their values. All parents implicitly make some sort of statement by how they raise their children: if we're going to be talking about statements, then "Christian" is far more egregious than "Vanyel." The question is not whether the parents are going to send a message, the question is whether mainstream messages and unusual messages are of equal moral legitimacy. If you're going to say "No, because children whose parents are sending unusual messages are more likely to be unhappy, and I don't want children to be unhappy, even if it means crushing minority subcultures," fine. Give in to the bullies honestly and explicitly, but don't pretend that sneers about vanity plates don't apply just as well to Christian's parents.
Actually, given how often (anecdotally speaking) children named Christian turn out atheist, that may indeed be giving them a positive outcome...
Tailoring a child's name to the proclivities of cruel and stupid children seems obviously unwarranted to me. The problem isn't the name. The problem is the cruel and stupid children. Tailoring a name to the common biases of normal adults is less obviously so, but since there is no real reason why we shouldn't have a high-powered businesswoman or a politician or whatever named Candy, I'm inclined to think that that's also a bad reason. Of course, I'm in favor of supplying middle names that are pretty run-of-the-mill for emergency backup; I know several people who go by their middle names, as a cheaper and simpler alternative to actually going through with a name change. If Candy doesn't like being Candy, she can grow up and call herself C. Eleanor or something. There are so many parenting choices that would be ruled out by a strategy of denying bullies ammunition that it doesn't seem like a practical priority, even if it were one I agreed with. Should I choose a white spouse (or adopt white children), so my kids will be white and unlikely to be the target of race-based bullying? Should I wait until I'm willing and able to supply my offspring with expensive designer clothes, lest they otherwise be subject to the sneers of the better-dressed? Should I grit my teeth and raise my children Episcopalian so they have a nice mainstream inoffensive belief system that people are unlikely to tease them about? Or, for more easily implemented choices - should I feed them meat, in case the carnivore children next door think tofu is silly? Should I discourage them from acting well-informed in public because knowledge is often mocked? Should I get a TV and have it babysit them so they'll enter the world with an arsenal of popular culture trivia? Data point: I have a very ordinary name. It's boring. I don't hate it enough to change it, but I wish my parents had named me something cooler.
7Eliezer Yudkowsky
Do you intend to rid the world of cruel and stupid children? If not, then this is the wrong protest for a parent to make. You do realize what I think I ought to do before the world is safe enough for my children... oh, never mind.
No, I intend to homeschool and to encourage my offspring not to waste their time on cruel and stupid people in general.
6Eliezer Yudkowsky
blink If indeed those parents were homeschooling their child then I'd probably withdraw 88% of my objection to that particular name.
What's the other 12%, then?
2Eliezer Yudkowsky
High school and the initial years of college.
What's the other 12%, then?
That was my answer too. Well, s/homeschool/unschool/ ?
5Paul Crowley
Data point: I'm glad to have a "dull" first name (Paul). To me, it means that I've been handed a blank slate on which to write who I am, rather than finding that my parents have pre-filled it for me. And it's something my parents did very much on purpose.
Why does it seem so unwarranted? The problem is with the cruel and stupid children, yes, but they are still a factor in how one's children are treated. Don't parents still have some sort of responsibility to protect their children from threats, even ones that shouldn't exist in an ideal world? I agree with Eliezer that in your case, home-schooling will remove a lot of the problem. I agree that parents cannot always completely deny bullies ammunition, but they should avoid granting bullies ammunition that doesn't require any tangible sacrifice on their part. All parenting choices are not created equal. Some parenting choices, like many of the examples you give, have some real rationale behind them that outweighs their possible negative impact on the child. Parents have valid interests in marrying the person they love, in raising their children to share their religion and diet, and in choosing their children's clothes and TV time. These concerns justify increasing the risk of their children getting teased, while the parents' mere self-expression does not. It's much better to having a boring name than to get teased because your parents got a little too creative. And I'm not talking about parents avoiding any kind of cool names, I'm just advocating avoiding names that will increase the chances of their kids getting teased. Also, I like ciphergoth's comment about the benefits of giving children a name that functions as a blank slate for their identities, rather than saddle the kid with the parents' self-expression that the kid might grow up to dislike.
Yes, parents have that responsibility. However, I don't consider encouraging or enforcing conformity to be the best way to protect children from the threat of bullying, any more than I consider it the best way to protect against assorted adult social ills like prejudice in its myriad forms. My first choice, as I noted elsewhere, is to control the setting so the threat is all but obviated. If that option weren't available to me (if I'd already had kids and then suffered financial disaster such that I could not educate them at home, having to work instead), I'd prefer consulting authorities (teachers, school administrators, other parents) to contain the threat in question, and sending my kid to jujitsu class if the threat were physical. Names are important. I don't want to make a decision that important because I am afraid of the behavior of cruel and stupid children. I don't want my kid to ask "Mom, why did you name me Lisa Mary? There are six other Lisas on our street and one of them has the middle name Mary too!" and have to answer "well, I was afraid that if I called you Cimorene Joyce like I wanted to, the six other Lisas on the street would make catty remarks to you even more than they already do because you're an atheist vegetarian who needs glasses and prefers books to television and doesn't go around dressed in clothes that feature [insert next decade's pop culture celebrity]. Never mind that as Cimorene Joyce you could have gone by Joyce or C.J. or by, heck, Lisa if that struck your fancy." Right, because naming my kid Lisa wouldn't pick my pocket or break my leg, it's not a significant sacrifice? A name that I will use many times a day and that everyone will know I picked shouldn't have to be one I like? I do not share your value ordering. Also, I can think of about six names that seem impossible to tease, and I'm sure with a little work, I could come up with schoolyard chants mocking those six names too.
To justify putting a child at increased risk of being teased or bullied, the reason had better be pretty damn good. I don't see the parents' name preferences, or the desire to flout prejudice with a child's name, as cutting it. Let's start with the issue of parents' preferences: I fully agree that names are important to parents and that parents have a valid interest in choosing names for their children that they like. Yet we can't just look at the parents' interests. What about the kid's interests? Remember, we are talking about potentially lasting psychological trauma. Even if we are only talking about a 5-10% difference in teasing and bullying, why would a parent want to make things any worse for their children just to satisfy their own creativity and self-expression? That sounds very selfish on the parent's part. Btw, I don't see a problem with the name "Cimorene." I'm pretty sure I haven't argued for limiting childrens' names to the most generic, like "Lisa." As I've said, I'm not advocating against cool names or unusual names, I'm advocating against names with associations and permutations that lead to increased teasing. As you observe, it is possible make fun of any name, given enough thought; yet as I've also already pointed out, some names are easier to make fun of than others. Not all names are so vulnerable to teasing that we should just throw up our hands and treat them all as equally risky for children. If parents really want to exercise their creativity, they should think up cool names that don't have obviously teaseable associations. Cimorene is fine; Vanyel is not. Would it really hurt parents to call their son "Vance" instead of "Vanyel" as much as it could potentially hurt the kid to be called Vanyel if one of his classmates discovers the reference? Remember, we are talking about the receiving homophobic slurs for years on end, which might have otherwise been avoided. From a utilitarian perspective, I don't think the math adds up. Maybe you thin
I would revise this statement if I were you, to something like "to justify putting a child at increased risk of being teased or bullied, the reason had better be commensurate with the risk increase in question". For example, "I was in a hurry" isn't a "pretty damn good" reason to increase the odds of teasing/bullying for one's child, but it might - occasionally, anyway - be an adequate reason for not noticing that one's child has her shirt on backwards as she leaves the house in the morning. Why are you assuming a kid - moreover, in particular, a kid of mine - wouldn't share my attitude about names, instead of yours, and agree with me about where to draw the line and how to make the tradeoff? Why? Because you had already heard of the name "Vanyel" and knew how to expect it to be teased, whereas (I'm guessing) you've never read the Enchanted Forest Chronicles? I hadn't heard of Vanyel before; it just sounded like a cool name to me, and I had to look it up when Eliezer indicated it had baggage attached. What are the odds that the average elementary school kid who would be inclined to use homophobic slurs in the first place has read Vanyel's books? I'm not a utilitarian. Or even a consequentialist. I think it falls under the "enforcement" category pretty starkly. It's not unassailable enforcement - middle names and nicknames and, later, name changes are available - but whatever your parents name you is what you're going to be called, by everybody, all the time, at least until you're old enough and independent enough to divorce yourself from what's written on your birth certificate. And if they call you Lisa, they're making you - in a pretty significant way - like all the people who are already named Lisa, and declaring their allegiance (or at least shared preferences) with all the other people who have named children Lisa. Children are notoriously inclined to obey example over instruction. I have very low confidence that quietly stifling various forms of self-expr
My previous post acknowledges that a child could grow up and love the radical name they are given. And I already tried to address your point above with what I was saying about radical names causing a higher variance of outcome, meaning higher chances of positive results and higher chances of negative results. I'm just not much of a fan of high-risk, high-reward strategies in the domain of parenting. Don't forget that elementary school children have older siblings, and that many schools are K-8. While the chances probably aren't very high, the consequences for the kid will be very high if someone finds out. Why play Russian Roulette with a child's social development? Very well, I concede this point. I still see the costs of additional exposure to bullying to outweigh the cost of this sort of enforcement. Bullies will enforce a lot more than this on a kid who gets in their sights. I agree that kids learn by example, but choice in the child's name is merely one form of the parents' self-expression. I'm sure there are plenty of other ways that parents can set nonconformist examples. See my previous comment about taking kids to rallies. On the contrary, I did address this comparison when I said "Parents have valid interests in marrying the person they love, in raising their children to share their religion and diet, and in choosing their children's clothes and TV time. These concerns justify increasing the risk of their children getting teased, while the parents' mere self-expression does not." I think you are correct to be hesitant in expecting that authorities would easily deal with bullying towards a child of yours. In my case, authorities were able to stop the more physical bullying, but they were able to stop the verbal aspect for any length of time. I don't think I suggested that I think your children would be exposed to bullying in the home, nor all over the place. To clarify, I am suggesting that if a child is getting bullied somewhere, it's not guaranteed
Agreed - but is the message supposed to be "don't conform if you don't want to", or "don't conform unless not conforming is scary"? You have not fully addressed this point at all! I can select the race of my spouse and therefore the race of my children without having to give up the chance to marry someone I love (given that I am not presently in love with anyone) simply by limiting my dating pool. It's pretty easy to tell by looking whether or not the potential children of me and some random guy would look white or not. I could simply not approach, or reject approaches from, anyone for whom the answer is "not". This might slow me down, but I'm pretty confident I will eventually find a spouse whether I do this or not. Kindly say whether or not you think, given that I eventually want children that are biologically mine and a future spouse's, and given that I will select the spouse from a dating pool I can restrict as I see fit based on any criteria I choose, that I should restrict said dating pool on the basis of race so my children will not be minorities. While we are on the subject of uncomfortable comparisons, the fact that I want biological children that are mine and a spouse's limits my dating pool to men and transsexual women who had the foresight to visit a sperm bank. I have a transwoman ex-girlfriend who has expressed an interest in getting back together with me after we are out of school and more geographically convenient to each other; should I nix that idea because I can probably find a cisgendered male and if I do, my kids won't have two mommies? Yes, there are some such first names. The one you propose is among them. This isn't because some kid named GayWussyPoopooBaby would be teased so much as because it indicates a flagrantly disrespectful attitude on the part of the parents towards their own child. If I thought that Vanyel's parents were homophobes and meant the name as a subtle dig at their offspring, I would object. By the same token, if "GayWus
I think I have, if you read that quote of mine again. I said "Parents have valid interests in marrying the person they love," not "Parents have valid interests in marrying a person they love." I do not consider potential spouses to be completely interchangeable. Consequently, parents can have a valid interest in marrying the particular person they are in love in with, even if that person is of a demographic that would lead their child to have a harder time with teasing. No, because you have a valid interest in dating from an unrestricted pool, and not having your dating slowed down by excluding partners based on qualities that are arbitrary to your compatibility. Same principle with having kids with your ex-girlfriend: if she really is your optimal partner choice in your view, then you have a valid interest in having kids with her, even though kids with other partners would have safer childhoods. Do you really think that a parent's choice of names for their child carries the same importance as the parent's unrestricted partner choice? I don't, and I would be surprised if you do. In my view, a parent's choice of a particular partner they consider optimal enough to have kids with, and a child's interest in not being put at extra risk of bullying, are both on a higher level of importance than a parent's choice of a creative name for the child. I think it would be their choice, too. My question for you is whether there are names that you would have a moral problem with, or that you would think are inadvisable. If parents from a foreign country named their boy Geiwusipoupoubebbi (love your transliteration, btw!), fully knowing how it sounds in English, would you really have no problem with that, considering that the name alone is enough to make the kid's life hell at school from bullying, possibly causing social trauma and depression? Would you have advised against giving that name to the kid if the parents asked your opinion when considering names? But you wouldn't
You're still evading the question. In order to find out whether any given prospective partner is someone I want to marry, I have to invest a lot of time in them. I can spend my twenties finding and investing time in, say, half a dozen people who meet my minimum initial standards whether or not those standards include "white male", and I don't have such a discerning nose for mate quality that I think excluding that criterion would let me be pickier about something important and have better odds of finding a really optimal spouse. Are you trying to say that you believe in soulmates or something equally freaky, such that restricting my dating pool one iota more than strikes my selfish whim might cost me my One True Love™? It certainly sounds like it - if you think that my investing time in the pursuit of Sorta Brownish Person A over White Person B is that important that you'll give me a green light to do so, and marry A if all goes well, even though I'll wind up with a Sorta Brownish Kid who might be the target of racism throughout his or her life, surely it must be profoundly important on the order of soulmate-hood for A. If that's the case, then you're outright rejecting my premise that I could find a satisfactory spouse given certain dating pool restrictions (e.g. if I restricted the pool to men or whites or both). I think I have an awfully high chance of winding up with a white male even if I don't narrow my dating pool at all, just because non-whites are called "minorities" for a reason and the same is true of lesbian/bisexual transwomen. It doesn't seem to me that I'd be giving up anything except my commitment to various non-consequentialist principles I care about by deliberately upping that chance to a near-certainty. Since "various non-consequentialist principles I care about" is exactly why I'd like to defend Vanyel's parents and the other parents of kids with unusual names, I want you to distinguish the two situations without resorting to the apparently magi
Alicorn said: Yes, but surely not all your prospective partners always look equally promising. If the most promising person around happens to non-white, then go ahead and date them. Who knows how long it might take to find someone as equally promising? Yes, if you think Person A is potentially a good match, then I will give you a green light to date him (or her). This green light does not entail a belief in soul-mate-hood, only a belief that Person A is more promising match, and an acknowledgment that a non-white person might end up being a better match than any eligible white partners you might meet in a convenient time window. Even if you didn't know either very well, I consider it rather unlikely that you would feel exactly the same way about both of them, if you were meeting them at the same time. All else being equal, potential parents probably should choose potential partners with traits that are more likely to result in positive outcomes for the children, and less likely to result in negative outcomes. Yet all is is rarely equal. I am not rejecting your premise that you could find a "satisfactory" spouse given certain dating pool restrictions. But surely you want a spouse that is more than merely satisfactory. While perhaps not likely, it is plausible that out of the potential satisfactory mates that you might meet during your lifetime, some of the best matches for you might be non-white. Even if you are surrounded by eligible white bachelors, you still could fall in love with a non-white person or meet a non-white person who seems like a better dating prospect, unless you plan on self-segregating yourself. Even if you know that you could eventually find a highly satisfactory partner of any race, people do not have infinite time and energy. Since you cannot rule out the possibility that, out of the potential partners you can possibly explore in your life time, a non-white person might be head-and-shoulders a better match, you should not categorically avoi
In the time since we last picked up this thread of conversation, I have started dating a half-Armenian guy. I don't know whether he counts as precisely non-white or not. At any rate, I wasn't restricting my pool on this basis at the time. (It does make constructing hypotheticals rather more awkward, though.) I do so agree for most commonsense values of "unnecessary". But then there's also this. I don't see how. It's a nickname that drops fairly easily out of the full name, and people do this all the time. I know a lot of people named Matthew and they all go by Matt - if I were contemplating "Matthew" as a name would I be "changing the name" to take this into account? I already have many and strong reasons to support homeschooling. Most of them have to do with school being a miserable goddamn place. Wu would - I concede readily - probably find school to be a more miserable goddamn place, and so those reasons are stronger for him. Indeed I do not. But I do hold people responsible for intentions and culpable ignorance, not what their behavior in fact causes. I could imagine tweaking this scenario enough to make it okay with me, but taking it at face value, yeah, that's not okay. I think there may be some level of disconnect between my understanding of my attachment to my preferred pretty names and your estimate of how attached the average potential parents are to their preferred pretty names. I'm using my own feelings on the matter as a prior, which perhaps I shouldn't do, but people who don't feel so strongly about it have less reason to stick to their names anyway.
I think I have, if you read that quote of mine again. I said "Parents have valid interests in marrying the person they love," not "Parents have valid interests in marrying a person they love." I do not consider potential spouses to be completely interchangeable. Consequently, parents can have a valid interest in marrying the particular person they are in love in with, even if that person is of a demographic that would lead their child to have a harder time with teasing. No, because you have a valid interest in dating from an unrestricted pool, and not having your dating slowed down by excluding partners based on qualities that are arbitrary to your compatibility. Same principle with having kids with your ex-girlfriend: if she really is your optimal partner choice in your view, then you have a valid interest in having kids with her, even though kids with other partners would have safer childhoods. Do you really think that a parent's choice of names for their child carries the same importance as the parent's unrestricted partner choice? I don't, and I would be surprised if you do. In my view, a parent's choice of a particular partner they consider optimal enough to have kids with, and a child's interest in not being put at extra risk of bullying, are both on a higher level of importance than a parent's choice of a creative name for the child. I think it would be their choice, too. My question for you is whether there are names that you would have a moral problem with, or that you would think are inadvisable. If parents from a foreign country named their boy Geiwusipoupoubebbi (love your transliteration, btw!), fully knowing how it sounds in English, would you really have no problem with that, considering that the name alone is enough to make the kid's life hell at school from bullying, possibly causing social trauma and depression? Would you have advised against giving that name to the kid if the parents asked your opinion when considering names? But you wouldn't
Or "Candida", which is likely what her full name would be anyway if "her parents named her 'Candy'", and doesn't have the same connotations as "Candy".
"Candace", surely? Candida is a genus of yeast.
Candace does appear to be far more common than Candida, but Candida broke the top 600 names in the 1930s. Even Candace is under that mark, now.
Given two prospective spouses, each with the exact level of physical and personal attractiveness, but one is white and the other black - I would start factoring in race related issues in my decision making.
I don't know what your cultural background might be, but for me to consider someone a prospective spouse, I would need to date him or her for quite some time; since I'm not polyamorously inclined, I'm never going to be concurrently presented with two people I'd consider prospective spouses (of any race). I'd have to explicitly restrict my dating pool to whites if I wanted to wind up with a white spouse.
Well said. Coolness is to be celebrated. And your comment about having white children is especially well-taken given Eliezer's comment about growing up to be president. Presumably, (at least before this year) one would be well-advised to avoid having anything but a white child if you want to leave that option open. Also, you didn't mention it, but obviously none of those things will stop kids from being bullied. All you need in order to be punched in the face is a face. (And kids without faces will likely be bullied too) I really don't get the Candy thing, but maybe that's because I've only ever known older women named Candy.
I didn't mention it because that doesn't seem to be HughRistik's point; it seemed like he was focusing on reducing bullying (plausible) rather than on eliminating it (implausible).
"Luke S. Yudkowsky" doesn't seem particularly bizarre. Isn't it kind of traditional for people to be embarrassed about their middle name anyway? The others do have problems, though.
If I ever have a daughter, I want to name her Flonne.
1Eliezer Yudkowsky
Has it occurred to you that a daughter only spends a certain number of years being cute, and then wants to grow up and possibly be President?
I'm pretty sure the grandparent is not serious, given CronoDAS's stated plan of living in his parents' house until they die and then comitting suicide.
Well, I'm half-joking, half-serious. I don't expect to have a daughter any time soon, so it's mostly just a little bit of fantasizing. I can't picture the name as being a barrier to anything, but I'll take your word for it. I really do adore the character, though. It's not because Flonne looks cute, it's because Flonne is kind, caring, and cheerful, the kind of person you'd want with you when things aren't going so well. I wouldn't try to name a son Laharl, though. I don't put a very high probability on my actually carrying out that plan; I give at least a 9 out of 10 chance that something is going to send my life in a different direction before my parents both kick the bucket. I do, however, plan on staying in this house for as long as I can. I like this house!
I was once in the same social circle as a guy named Legolas, although I never actually met him myself. Apparently that was his actual name. His parents were evidently big Lord of the Rings fans.
I knew a girl named Kira after the officer of the same name on Deep Space Nine.
I ran into a girl named Kira at an anime convention a few weeks ago. In that context, the name brings something very different to mind.
With a name like "Utility," while sonorous enough, might this be an invitation to some notion of a need for maximizsation? Is it advisable to freight a child with such expectations? If so, then an alternate that might serve is Bentham(e). At least it could be shortened to Ben. On a lighthearted note, might Utility find himself or herself drawn toward becoming a public utilities worker? (In Latin culture, I'm acquainted with a few people named Jesus and Angel. Suffice to say, none in that sample set appears particularly pious or angelic in disposition or outward behavior. Your mileage may vary. Tangential to the observation about the Stanford experiement, a story appeared a few years ago about a New York family in which one boy was legally named "Loser;" the other, "Winner." Care to guess which of the two brothers went on to become a police officer?
Is it advisable to freight a child with such expectations? That's actually a major concern I have in naming generally, I've known people named after abstract concepts that internalized them quite a bit. I would actually advise against any such name. It messes with your head.
Darn, does that rule out "Joyce" too because that refers to the abstract concept of joy? Or is that okay if I want my child to be joyous? What can I name my kids without having them messed up?
I think saying "I am Joyce" all the time wouldn't have nearly the impact that saying "I am Joy" would.
The trick is, don't think of it as being 'messed up'. There are a lot of different ways of being that are just fine. One of my children will be named after Alexander the Great and Lex Luthor. I will be teaching her Aristotelian ethics, and I have a strong suspicion she will be told she's a god by her mother.
Well, it may depend on where the person would otherwise be psychologically. I think there are ways of being that are messed up, and the wrong name can at least make that worse. It may be that only a small percentage of "Joy"s would be psychologically harmed. If a name is the worst mistake a parent makes, then the kid will probably be fine anyway.
"Vladimir" sounds not unlike "One who controls the World" in Russian (Vladet' = to own, mir = World).
My mentor and his wife are fans of Emerson, and their children are named Victor and Will. Victor is named after Frankenstein, as well as the word 'victor'; Will is named for the word 'will'. No telling how they've turned out yet.

These studies have not held up well to further rigor. See Scott's 2016 post Devoodooifying Psychology, or even better Simonsohn's (2011) paper Spurious? Name similarity effects (implicit egotism) in marriage, job, and moving decisions.

A lot of relatively weighty decisions wind up being made for trivial reasons simply because all of the non-trivial factors cancel each other out - for instance, if I were trying to decide whether to go into ethics or metaphysics (a choice with long-term career impact, assuming I get to be a professor one day) and I didn't find myself strongly preferring one over the other, I could see myself picking one for a silly reason. If my name were Ethel, which it is not, and I liked the sound of "Ethel the ethicist", that might tip the balance. Either t... (read more)

It seems like utility calculations should cancel out to within such a small margin as U(good name) - U(bad name) only very very rarely, especially when there are many different independent considerations. I worry that people may have overactive indifference detectors, and could improve their decision algorithms by learning tricks to distinguish the real slight preferences/estimates underlying what feels to them like very precise indifference but isn't.
I agree that it may plausibly be argued that the difference should rarely fall into the small margin: U(good name) - U(bad name) (up to varying priors, utility functions, ...). However, should people calculate to the point that they can resolve differences of that order of magnitude? A fast and dirty heuristic may be the way to go practically speaking; the difference in utility would be less than the utility lost in calculating it.
2Scott Alexander
If you haven't already, read the part of the paper where they talk about hardware and roofing stores. They ran some clever analyses to see whether the effect was caused by a love of alliteration (for example someone named Herman decides to go into hardware so he can call his store Herman's Hardware) and the results suggested this wasn't the explanation.
Right. Given the prior knowledge, silly reasons may be independent of the serious consequences, even if in the end, when you learn more, they become dependent. High-impact decisions can be indistinguishable from each other at the stage where they are made, so that silly reasons don't (anti)correlate with serious reasons. Silly reasons are not silly because they are anti-intelligent, they are silly because they are irrelevant.

My name is Hal, and I have worked in computer software development for my whole career. :)

7Eliezer Yudkowsky
My name is Eliezer Yudkowsky... okay, that may not sound very promising, but I've been repeatedly told that my name "sounds just like a scientist's name".
5Scott Alexander
I think that's more like the confounders they try to eliminate: Eliezer Yudkowsky is a very Eastern European / Jewish sounding name, and both Eastern Europeans and Jews are perceived as commonly being scientists. The -sky ending also calls to mind Lobachevsky, Minsky, Korzybski, Tsiolkovsky, Tarski, and other really smart people.
Data point: after I first happened upon your old writings (Hanson's "critical discussion"), I had a strong mental image of you as a 60-year-old with a meter-long white beard.
Interesting. I had always wanted to ask you whether you had run into people who inferred from your name that you were devoutly religious. (Not that it would have taken them very long to be disabused of this idea, of course!)
Hrm... but given that your Jewish upbringing, I can reasonably assume you've heard a certain song/tune/chant multiple times in the past, so..... "Eliezer Yudkowsky Eliezer Yudkowsky Eliezer Eliezer a Machiiiine been developing" (couldn't resist :))
0Eliezer Yudkowsky
Actually I don't get this one, sorry.
sing it to the tune of "eliyahu hanavi"
6Eliezer Yudkowsky
You know there are actual experiments centered around showing how much harder that sort of thing is for other people to get, than we think when we sing it in our heads.
*blinks* I'm not surprised that it would be harder to get than we would think, but I didn't realize anyone actually had done an actual study on specifically that. For some reason, the fact that this was systematically studied makes me happy. Anyways, got a link/reference/info on that? Thanks.
2Paul Crowley
The Illusion of Transparency from the You Are Not So Smart blog. Better late than never :-)
Prob'ly it varies from person to person. It would be harder for me to read this without singing it in my head (and I hadn't read its grandparent when I read it).
As long as we're sharing, I think my name being Thomas was influential in nudging me towards philosophy. I'd like to think I have more than a little in common with the Dumb Ox. Not to mention the apostle.

But you've missed the most important point!

It means that the comic book tendency to get super-powers coincidentally related to your real name actually works!

Now if only I can figure out a superpower related to the name Jonnan, I can figure out what kind of radioactive bug to be bit by?


That is all quite fascinating, in a "fancy that!" fashion, but whenever I see correlational data reported I wonder about the magnitude of the effect, and a measure of that magnitude in terms of bits of information. The first result they report is that if there were no influence between name and state of residence, the proportion of coincidences would be 0.1664, while the observed level is 0.1986. How large an influence does this represent?

I am not quite sure what the correct calculation to make is -- perhaps someone more versed in these matters c... (read more)

Blog posts by Andrew Gelman:
Why it's not so weird that so many dentists are named Dennis: a story of conditional probability
How many people choose careers based on their names?

Is there a reason NOT to link to the posts directly and have the readers repeat the search?

More specifically, such a small effect does not require a widespread bias; if just a tiny number of people have a stronger (even conscious) bias, it could explain the data.

6Scott Alexander
Ah. I figured he must have done it at some point since the only copy of the PDF file I could find was on Andrew's site with the name "stuff-for-blog", but Google searches for "Gelman Pelham" and "Gelman name letter" didn't turn anything up. If I'd known I would have just linked him. I hope he's not upset that I'm "copying" him. I did not first read this study on Gelman's blog. Actually, there is a story behind where I first read it. It was in a college psychology class. I was quite nervous throughout class that day, because I was going to ask the professor after class to write me a letter of recommendation for a postgrad program in Scotland I wanted to get into. We spent an hour or so going over this paper and implicit egoism, and then after class I asked the professor to help me get into the program, and she started cracking up. ...see, my real name is Scott, and it was a program in Scotland, and we'd just finished studying the name letter effect...the next day she told the entire class about it, and I was suitably embarrassed, and the name letter effect has stuck in my memory ever since.

I live in the state of Georgia and recently I had noticed that I pay special attention to news stories about the country of Georgia. This happens despite that the country has no special relevance besides sharing a name with my state. This post gives me some insight as to why that happens.

This doesn't seem dissimilar to some experiences I had in elementary school. Whenever the teacher would read a story to the class, and a character had the same name as someone in the class, when the teacher read the name of that character, everyone in the class would look ... (read more)

Ulounnaefrtty alphiinomcscg tihs rriueeqs taht uaentrects be dtuviiinme not too hnmuuoogs. Aslo crtiaen ltteer ciinntoombas msut go ugheanncd. ... Unfortunately, accomplishing this requires that utterances be diminutive not too humongous. Also certain letter combinations must go unchanged.
It also helps to use words I actually know how to spell.
However, "a total mess" can only be certain patterns("randomly", but not eg in reverse order). And you get a worse result on the Stroop test after reading such a text than after reading the same text with correct spelling. In other words, such texts generate akrasia.
More on the jumbled words thing.

Here's one way this could be explained: Susie realizes that her name could become a cheap and effective marketing tool if she sells seashells at the seashore. Since that's something she enjoys doing anyway, she does so.

If that's how things are, I wouldn't really call this a cognitive bias.

Is this whole bias caused by the exposure effect? Would there be any obstacle in unifying the two? Do people also prefer to live in towns that are associated with their parents' names? Do people who fall for this effect also name their pets or children after themselves to a greater extent?

1Scott Alexander
The second link in the article, the one with the words "they find", is a paper called "Name Letter Preferences Are Not Merely Mere Exposure". You should find some useful studies and stuff there. If you want the paper but can't access it, tell me your email and I'll send it to you.

I'd be interested to know if people who live in towns or have jobs that sound like their names enjoy these residences/careers more than people who live in the same town/have the same career, but have different-sounding names.

You might still not get meaningful results. Having grown up in Shelton, CT (Huntington, specifically) I find I prefer things and people called "Shelton", "Huntington", or "Connecticut". I'm not sure if I would have more of a preference for a place that sounds like my name than for those places. Though it's all fairly irrelevant since New Haven is the greatest city in the world.

If you have any doubts about the validity of the research, I urge you to read the linked paper. It's a great example of researchers who go above and beyond the call of duty to eliminate as many confounders as possible.

I'd be more confident if there was any research by someone other than Pelman on the subject. There is always a possibility for biased selection of data and deceptive interpretation of analysis.

Data point:

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in Kennedy v. Louisiana, a highly controversial 2008 case striking down the death penalty for child rape.

In this 5-4 decision favoring a petitioner named Patrick Kennedy, Justice Kennedy, widely considered a "swing vote" with conservative leanings, sided with the liberals on the court and against the conservatives -- clearly determining the outcome of the case.

I put this here because this post was the first thing I thought of when I ran across this piece of informat... (read more)

Um....okay....person who downvoted this: What was the message you were trying to send? Was it: -Don't post anecdotes (possibly) illustrating the point of the post? (In which case, did you take care to downvote all the above comments doing the same thing?) -Don't comment on an old post? (Is that a rule we really want to establish?) -There's no way that Justice Kennedy's decision could have been influenced by name bias, and surely every sane person realizes this? (What makes you so sure? And did I say that it was? Isn't it all right merely to raise the possibility?) For goodness' sake, I even put in a disclaimer about the frequency effect!
Only a tiny percentage of people who make name-associated decisions make them because of name-association (see Gelman's analysis). Thus, finding an example of a decision in the presence of name-association is overwhelmingly unlikely to be an example of a decision influenced by name-association. Such anecdote, even when given without this conclusion, fallacy of which you might have realized yourself, can't be relevant to the pattern discussed in this post. It thus implicitly suggests this conclusion, as its sole raison d'etre, turning it into a misleading "not technically a lie".
But how is my anecdote any less relevant than the others above, which were in fact deemed acceptable commentary on the post? Indeed, you seem to be arguing against the thrust of the post itself, rather than my individual comment. Also, does mere failure of an example warrant downvoting? (Rhetorical question; it doesn't. For instance, it may prompt a discussion of the reasons the example fails, which may add value to the discussion. Or it may be neutral. Downvoting implies the added value is outright negative.)
I'm not happy with many of the other anecdotes either. Example being misleading is a negative effect. Seeing patterns where there's none is a basic failure in human mind, we should know better than to indulge it.
I could see a case for this if: (1) The existence of the phenomenon under discussion was not itself in dispute; (2) The failed example is likely to lead to confusion about the nature of the (undisputed) phenomenon; and (3) The commenter should have known this, or in some other way the example was not offered in good faith. Looking through your previous comments, and noting your citation of Gelman, it appears that you are skeptical of the name-bias phenomenon itself as posited by Yvain and those he cites; hence (1) does not hold. Regarding (2), I find it highly unlikely that someone following the discussion about whether name-bias exists is going to be misled or confused by a particular anecdote that may or may not exemplify the phenomenon (depending in particular on whether the phenomenon exists). As for (3), the comment was quite consistent with the spirit of the preceding discussion. It should also be noted that (as I hinted) the name coincidence in the court decision would not have caught my attention if I hadn't read the post -- this fact alone arguably makes it worthy of a comment on said post. It would be different if you accepted Yvain's claims (1), but thought my example would mislead folks about what it was that Yvain was describing (2). As it is, however, a court decision such as I mentioned clearly counts as a candidate for name-bias, if you assume that name-bias as described in the post actually exists. The issue is that you don't accept this premise in the first place. Consequently I don't see a defensible rationale for downvoting in this context. (Certainly not without also downvoting the main post.)
I accept that the effect might be real, but neither the main post, nor the paper itself are at odds with interpreting this effect as tiny. Being tiny, the effect can't be used in interpreting the structure of specific examples, it doesn't suggest that any given example has good chances of being a name-based decision.

Intriguing... I can imagine that having a certain name may have an effect on people (as illustrated by the late Johnny Cash), but this is weird... Couldn't there be some alternative explanation?

E.g., maybe there's a regional preference for certain names, and they picked the regional preferred ones that happened to fit the desired pattern (Study 1)? Similarly for study 7, where names are correlated with with social stratum, year of birth, which also influence occupation.

For some of the studies they picked very specific examples - hardware v.s. roofing or on... (read more)


Here's my take on why the name bias exists: the name bias is a byproduct of the consistency bias.

Like we all know, we are inclined to be consistent with our prior beliefs and actions. Another aspect our ourselves that we tend to want to be consistent with is our perceived identity. For instance, if you identify yourself as a manly man then you'll have a more natural affinity to things you perceive to be manly.

Obviously, your name plays a big role in the construction of your identity. Your tendency to prefer things that sound like your name is just your min... (read more)

This makes little sense to me. It would explain it if people only had a tendency to like people/places/things with the same (or almost the same) name as them (e.g. you might see a lot of people named Alex marrying each other and a lot of Britneys with best friends named Brittany - and in fact, my best friend in middle school shared my first name). But my first initial doesn't strike me as being more a part of my identity than, say, the number of letters long my name is - is there some correlation there too? Do people named John like to live in Ohio because it has four letters? And if you start looking that hard, doesn't this turn into Bible-code-esque seek-hard-enough-and-ye-shall-find stuff? I mean, I'm sure there are a hundred things significant to my life that have some trivial connection to my name or the name of my hometown or the name of my first guppy.
I agree that my theory doesn't explain the first initial bias, but maybe that phenomenon has a completely different cause. I think the first initial bias has more to do with the fact that we get an orienting response from hearing or reading our name, which causes us to pay extra attention to the message source (our liking of the source would result from our paying more attention to it). I hypothesize that we also get an orienting response from hearing or reading messages that are similar to our names. Reading the word "Alicorn" might unconsciously grab your attention more than "Olicorn" even though they would sound the same (I think). Generalizing from this example, maybe reading words that simply start with a capital "A" grab your attention more than words starting with other capital letters. Hence, you pay more attention (and therefore like) people/places/things that start with a capital A.
I can't think of a way to pronounce "Olicorn" the way "Alicorn" is pronounced (the first syllable rhymes with "pal" and "shall", not "doll" or "call").
For reference, I had to read that sentence a lot of times to make sense of it, as I pronounce "doll" with the same vowel as "pal" and "shall", and I can't currently imagine a way that I would pronounce "doll" the same as "call". Also, I read "Olicorn" as being likely pronounced the same as "Alicorn" (the O as in Oliver, the A as in Alexander).
May I ask where you are from? I've never heard anyone pronounce "doll" the same as "pal", and if there's one thing I'm fascinated by, it's accents (speaking as someone who has been confounded by his own Canadian raising. About. Not aboot.).
Shelton, CT, USA. I believe my accent is typical of that region of the Naugatuck River Valley, usually referred to as the 'valley drawl'.
I guess you and I have different accents. The A in "Alicorn" (and in "Alexander", too, both instances) is the same one I use in "pal", "shall", "cat", "fan", "rabbi", "lad", "granny", etc. The O in "Oliver" is the same vowel for me as "doll" and "call", which most of the time rhyme (although when I'm trying very carefully to speak distinctly, they start to sound a little different).
This conversation probably shouldn't continue without the use of audio and/or a standard phonetic representation. Suffice it to say that one or both of us talks (and hears) funny.
Ah, thought it would be like "Ali" in "Muhammad Ali".
Nope, it's a short I. Like "unicorn", with the "al" in front instead of the "u".

This is hinted at in other comments, but is it established in the literature that this is a small, unconscious bias? It seems like it could just as easily be the conscious preferences of a few people. In accordance with what Alicorn says below, I wouldn't be surprised if a positive integer of people moved to Philadelphia to become "Philladelphia Phil" or something similar.

There's no shortage of people who, consciously and unabashedly, like alliteration a lot more than seems appropriate to me.
aww Alicorn, alliteration always awesomely alleviates awful ailments.
8Eliezer Yudkowsky
And also annoys audiences.
You're using assonance, not alliteration.
Assonance is merely re-using the same vowel sound repetitively, not necessarily at the beginning of the word - the equivalent for consonants is "consonance". The above would commonly be called alliteration, sometimes defended by the unwritten glottal stop consonant used before vowel sounds at the beginning of English words.
Voted up since I learned something. (Glottal stops. Huh.)

[comment deleted]

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply

The full quote is even better:

"That's the way Max Power is, Marge. Decisive. Uncompromising! And rude!"

It should probably be attributed to 'Max Power' too--not 'Homer'.

Just out of curiosity... Has there been any research on the opposite bias? Do people who dislike their names avoid places that sound similar to it?

Researching a sample of people who legally changed their names in adulthood might be the way to go here.

I don't think you could get together enough people who changed their names away from any particular name to see overall trends. The set of people who changed their names in adulthood is probably decent-sized, but the set of people who changed their names away from, say, David, and not because they are transitioning to female or for some other reason besides not liking it, and who have had the opportunity to move as adults to a city that sounds like "David", is probably tiny.
0Eliezer Yudkowsky
You could maybe do Bayesian updates on this if you had a large enough pool of name-changers and a large enough pool of names previously investigated, but it probably wouldn't end up being "statistically significant" by journal standards.
Can you expand on what sort of "statistically insignificant" Bayesian update would be a useful thing to do?

I think an examination of how different biases interact with self-esteem would be a profitable direction for future research

or, more generally, how "wanting to feel good about your life" causes people to be more biased.

I feel kind of embarrassed now for having not known about this bias until now. It doesn't really surprise me, though: all my life I've noticed that I tend to like things that start with the letters "g" and "w": fictional characters, place names, etc.. I've never really thought consciously "I like things that sound like my name", but looking at my actual preferences I think it's pretty clear that I do.

Blink. Now that you mention this... I've always liked "C" names, myself. C, of course, can be pronounced either as a "K" or as an "S". I'd known about the name bias for a while, and even used it as an example several times, and still didn't realize my own bias until you said that. Though then again... I also like "E" names, so it might just be coincidence. You'd expect there to be plenty of false positives in a group this large.

Great post. But I feel queasy about p-values because of Lindley's paradox: more often than not, a small p-value doesn't necessarily make a perfect Bayesian reject the null hypothesis. Oh, what to do.

...although in this situation I do accept the results.

It also tends to shut up people who don't believe there are subconscious influences on decision-making, and who are always willing to find some excuse for why a supposed "bias" could actually be an example of legitimate decision-making.

Sorry, not this time. I have no problem with preferring things that are associated with me.

How much? If you're choosing between jobs in the otherwise identical towns of Springfield and Blakeston, How much more would the Springfeild job need to pay for you to take it? Or to evoke another bias: How much money are you willing to lose?
Tough to say, as I haven't really been in a relevantly similar position w.r.t. being offered similar jobs in different places, nor has money been a primary concern in picking a job. However, I think I could see myself taking a pay cut (if I could live with it) for working at Blake Enterprises or Blake University or something like that. That would just be awesome. "Hi, this is Thom Blake from Blake Enterprises returning your call..."
[+][comment deleted]00