What’s In A Name? That Next Promotion, For One Thing

What’s In A Name? That Next Promotion, For One Thing
[Image: Flickr user Jeff Kubina]

Studies have shown that all sorts of ridiculous things correlate with people’s relative power: if you’re taller, more attractive, have a deeper voice, you’ll be more likely be successful.

And as a new study from Deutschland shows, your surname might be another factor. let’s compare these German names:

  • Kaiser (“emperor”)
  • König (“king”)
  • Fürst (“prince”)

With these:

  • Bergmann (“miner”),
  • Schubert (“shoemaker”)
  • Zimmerman (“carpenter”)

What’s the difference between the first group and the second? The first are noble-sounding (in the cases of princes, quite literally). This has an impressive correlation: Raphael Silberzahn of the University of Cambridge and Eric Luis Uhlmann of HEC Paris analyzed 84 different last names in 223,000 jobs, comparing 11 noble-sounding names to commoner-style surnames.

As Psychological Science’s Observer blog shows, the results are startling:

“Among Germans with noble-sounding names, we found 2.7% more managers per hundred people than expected, on average,” the scientists write in the journal Psychological Science. And they found 1.1% fewer managers among Germans with last names referring to four of the most common occupations.

Why might this be so pronounced? Perhaps because people tend to address each other by their last name in Germany, the authors note, while in the States we use the first. Interestingly, if your last name is of a less-prestigious but no longer in use profession, it had no negative effect–Shepherds and Wagners (which means “wagonmaker”) are doing just fine.

So what are we to do? Maybe go with Ochocinco.