Could your initials influence where you choose to work?

October 23, 2008,

One of the most important decisions that we can make is what company we will work for. There are a number of factors to consider when making this decision, including salary, benefits and work location. However, there may also be less-obvious factors in play that sway our decision, and without us even knowing it. It is well known that unconscious thoughts can influence certain aspects of our behavior. An intriguing example of this is the "name-letter effect," a phenomenon which shows that we have a preference for things that begin with the same letter as our first name.

Psychologists Frederik Anseel and Wouter Duyck from Ghent University (Belgium) were interested in testing the extent of the name-letter effect and if it is potent enough to affect where we choose to work. The psychologists analyzed a database containing information about Belgian employees who work full-time. More specifically, the researchers looked at the employees' name and how often their first initial matched the first letter of their company's name. The researchers estimated the expected number of these matches (using a probability calculation) and compared that to what they actually observed.

In a new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, the psychologists found that there is indeed a name-letter effect between employee names and the company they work for. There were 12% more matches than was expected based on the probability estimate. The researchers noted that "hence, for about one in nine people whose initials matched their company's initial, choice of employer seems to have been influenced by the fact that the letters matched." In addition, when the psychologists looked across all letters, they found that this effect occurred with every letter of the alphabet, but was more apparent for rarer initials.

The authors concluded that they "have demonstrated that people are more likely to work for companies with initials matching their own than to work for companies with other initials."

Related article: www.psychologicalscience.org/m … ases/2007/nelson.cfm

Source: Association for Psychological Science

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9 comments

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nano999
4 / 5 (8) Oct 23, 2008
I don't know how many people have the luxury of 'choosing' where they work. It's more like you apply to several places with openings and hope you're lucky or good enough to get the job.

This whole idea of initials seems quite stupid and is about one step above astrology.
drel
5 / 5 (5) Oct 23, 2008
I wonder if the fact that Bob both owns and works at "Bob's Bikes" was accounted for in this research?
dbren
3 / 5 (2) Oct 23, 2008
Well, let's see. My first initial is "D". Since college I've worked for:

Tacoma Screw Products (Nope)
Digital Systems Int'l (not DEC) Yup!
McCaw Cellular (Nope)
AT&T (Nope)
US Navy NNMC (Nope)
Airborne Express (Nope - although bought by DHL)
Cingular (Nope)
Avue Technologies (Nope)
Weyerhaeuser (Nope)
AT&T (Nope)
That's 9 Nopes and 1 Yup. Hmmmmm....
x646d63
5 / 5 (3) Oct 23, 2008
Sheesh. Really?

My friend Bob Johnson works for Johnson Electric. My friend Alison Weaver works for Weaver and Associates. My friend Ingrid Thorsson works for the Thorrson Cannery. My last name is Simmons and I work for Simmons, Simmons and Lark, LLC.

Wow. They're right.
megaquark
5 / 5 (3) Oct 23, 2008
Why is it that people always have trouble seperating coincidence from causation.
If you do a study of plane crash victims you will find that certain underwear colors are more common than others. You may also find that the percentage of colors are different from the general population. But now matter how those numbers come out, I guarantee you that wearing blue underwear has no affect on plane crashes.
DonR
5 / 5 (2) Oct 23, 2008
I guess there wasn't much to pad the pages of Psychological Science that issue.
Keter
5 / 5 (3) Oct 23, 2008
I wanna know who funded this dreck.
Velanarris
5 / 5 (1) Oct 24, 2008
Sheesh. Really?

My friend Bob Johnson works for Johnson Electric. My friend Alison Weaver works for Weaver and Associates. My friend Ingrid Thorsson works for the Thorrson Cannery. My last name is Simmons and I work for Simmons, Simmons and Lark, LLC.

Wow. They're right.
Or you all own your own business.

Seriously, think of it this way. How many people do you work with? How many of them do not have the same initials? There's your answer.

Did they ever think that perhaps it's because certain letters are used more often than others?

For instance, some of the most common names start with J, M, A, D, C, O. I'm sure a lot of companies are named after the people who founded them, making this correlation nothing more than statistical slight of hand.
MrFred
5 / 5 (1) Oct 24, 2008
Seriously, this is the kind of research that I would expect from a second graders 'useless statistics-R-us' therapy group... and its on this website why????

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