60-Second Mind

You May Think Your Name Is Rare

We tend to overestimate how rare our names are, perhaps in an effort to preserve a sense of being special. Christie Nicholson reports

You may think your name is pretty rare. But whether you’re a John or a Jocasta, a recent study finds that you will consistently rate your first name as rarer than other people would rate it.

Researchers showed 247 subjects a list of nine names and their frequencies in the population. The subjects then rated how rare they thought their own names were, on a scale from 0 to 100. The researchers then asked another group to also rate the names of the volunteers.    

Turns out that the subjects always rated their name as more rare than the estimated ratings done by the other group. The study is The British Journal of Social Psychology.

The research also revealed that those with truly rare names tended to be happier with those names. And those who’d ever considered changing their name said it was because they thought theirs was too common.

The researchers think that the assumption that one’s name is less common than it really is comes from a subconscious desire to feel special. But Shakespeare cut to the chase four centuries ago: after all, what’s in a name?

—Christie Nicholson

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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