Nominative determinism

Nominative determinism is the hypothesis that people tend to gravitate towards areas of work that fit their names. The term Was first used in the magazine New Scientist in 1994 partner after the magazine’s humorous Feedback column Noted Several studies the carried out by Researchers with Remarkably fitting surnames . These included a book on polar explorations by Daniel Snowman and an article on urology by researchers named Splatt and Weedon. These and other examples led to light-hearted speculation that some sort of psychological effect was at work. Since the term appeared, nominative determinism has been irregularly recurring topic in New Scientist , as readers continue to submit examples. Nominative determinism differs from the related concept aptronym , and its synonyms aptonym, namephreak, and Perfect Fit Last Name, in that it focusses on causality. “Aptronym” merely means the name is fitting, without saying anything about why it has come to fit.

The Idea That People are drawn to professions That made Their Name Was suggéré by psychologist Carl Jung , Citing as an example Sigmund Freud Who Studied pleasure and Whose surname means “joy”. A few recent empirical studies have shown that certain professions are disproportionately represented by people with appropriate surnames (and sometimes given names), though the methods of these studies have been challenged. One explanation for nominative determinism is implicit egotism , which states that they associate with themselves. An alternative explanation is genetic : a person might be named Smith or Taylor because that was originally their occupation,


Before people could gravitate towards areas of work that matched their names, many people were given names that matched their area of ​​work. [1] The way people are named has changed over time. [2] In Anglo-Saxon name Beornheard. [3] [A] Single names were chosen for their meaning or given as nicknames . [3] [5] In England it was only after the Norman conquest that they were added, although they were not hereditary, [3] [6] such as Edmund Ironside . [3] Surnames Were created to fit the person, mostly from patronyms (eg, John son of William Becomes John Williamson), occupational descriptions (eg, John Carpenter), character or traits (eg, John Long), gold leasing (eg, John from Acton became John Acton). [1] Names were not initially hereditary; Only by the mid-14th century did they gradually become so. [7] Surnames relating to trades or craft were the first to become hereditary, as the craft often within the family for generations. [8] [B] The appropriateness of occupational names has decreased over time, because tradesmen did not always follow their fathers: [2] an early example from the 14th century is “Roger Carpenter the pepperer”. [8]

Another aspect of naming was the importance attached to the wider meaning contained in a name. In 17th-century England it was believed that a child should be carefully considered. Children should live according to the message contained in, or the meaning of their names. [12] In 1652 William Jenkyn , an English clergyman argued That first names be shoulds “as a thread about the tyed finger to make us mindful of the errand we cam into the world to do for our Master.” [13] In 1623, at a time When Puritan names Such As Faith, Fortitude and Grace Were Appearing for the first time, English historian William Camden Wrote That shoulds be Chosen names with “good and gracious meanings” As they might inspire the bearer to good actions. [14] [15] With the rise of the British Empire the English naming system and English surnames spread across large portions of the globe. [16]

By the beginning of the 20th century, Smith and Taylor were two of the most frequently occurring English surnames; Both were occupational, though few smiths and tailors remained. [17] [C] When a correspondence between a name and an occupation has occurred, it becomes worthy of note. In an 1888 issue of the Kentish Note Book magazine a listing with “several carriers by the name of Carter a named Hosegood, an auctioneer named Sales and a draper named Cuff”. [19] Since then, a variety of terms for the concept of a close relationship between name and occupation have emerged. The term aptronym is thought to-have-been coined in the early 20th century by the American newspaper columnist Franklin P. Adams . [20] Linguist Frank Nuessel coined aptonym , without an “r”, in 1992. [21] Other synonyms include euonym , [22] Perfect Fit Last Name (PFLN), [23] and namephreak . [24] In literary science a name that is particularly suited to a character is called a charactonym . [25] Notable authors Who have frequently used charactonyms has technical stylistic include Charles Dickens (eg, Mr. Gradgrind , the tyrannical schoolmaster) [26] and William Shakespeare (eg, The lost baby Perdita in The Winter’s Tale ). [27] Unlike nominative determinism, the concept of aptronym and its synonyms do not say anything about causality, ie why the name has come to fit. [28]

Because of the potentially humorous nature of aptronyms a number of newspapers have received them. San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen reported irregularly on reader-submitted gems, including substitute teacher Mr. Fillin, piano teacher Patience Scales, and the Vatican’s spokesman on the evils of rock ‘n roll, Cardinal Rapsong. [29] Similarly, the journalist Bob Levey opportunity is listed examples by readers feel in de son column in The Washington Post : a food industry consultant named Faith Popcorn has called Expired Lieutenant Sergeant, and a tax accountant called Expired Shelby Goldgrab. [23] [30] Dutch newspaper Het Parool had an irregularly featured column called ” Medicine, and law are more reliable as they tend to be drawn from easily verifiable sources. [35] [36] Medicine, and law are more reliable as they tend to be drawn from easily verifiable sources. [35] [36]


Nominative determinism, literally “name-driven outcome”, [37] is the hypothesis that people tend to gravitate towards areas of work which reflect their names. The name fits because people, possibly subconsciously, made themselves fit. Nominative determinism differs from the concept of aptrony in that it focusses on causality. [28]

John Hoyland, who wrote in the November 9 issue of the British magazine New Scientist in 1994. A series of events raised the suspicion of its editor,

We recently cam across a new book, Pole Positions, The Polar Regions and the Future of the Planet , by Daniel Snowman . [38] Then, a couple of weeks later, we received a copy of London Under London-A Subterranean Guide , one of the authors of which is Richard Trench. [39] So it was interesting to see Jen Hunt of the University of Manchester stating in the October issue of The Psychologist : “Authors gravitate to the area of ​​research which fits their surname.” [40] Hunt’s example is an article on incontinence in the British Journal of Urology by AJ Splatt and D. Weedon. [41]

We feel it’s time to open up this whole issue to rigorous scrutiny. You are invited to send in examples of the phenomenon in the fields of science and technology (with references that check out, please) together with any hypotheses you may have on how it comes about. [42]

Feedback editors John Hoyland and Mike Holderness subsequently adopté the term nominative determinism have suggéré by CR reader Cavonius. The term first appeared in the 17 December issue. [43] Even though the magazine has tried to get rid of the decades since, [44] readers kept sending in curious examples. These included the US Navy spokesman put up to answer journalists’ questions about the Guantanamo Bay detention camp , one Lieutenant Mike Kafka; [45] authors of the book The Imperial Animal Lionel Tiger and Robin Fox; [46] and the UK Police Officers’ spokesman on knife crime, Alfred Hitchcock. [47]

As used in New Scientist the term nominative determinism only. [42] [48] [19] [44] In contributions to other newspapers New Scientist writers-have stuck to this definition, with the exception of editor Roger Highfield in a column in the Evening Standard , in qui he included “key attributes of life “. [49] [50] [51] [52] [D]

Prior to 1994 other terms for the suspected psychological effect were sporadically used. Onomastic determinism was used as early as 1970 by Roberta Frank . [53] German psychologist Wilhelm Stekel spoke of “Die Verpflichtung of Namens” (the obligation of the name) in 1911. [54] Outside of science, cognomen syndrome Was used by playwright Tom Stoppard In His 1972 play Jumpers . [55] In Ancient Rome the predictive power of a person’s name was captured by the Latin proverb “nomen est omen”, meaning the name is a sign. [56] This Saying is still in use today in English [56] and other languages Such As French, [57] German, [58] Italian, [59]Dutch, [60] and Slovenian. [61]

New Scientist coined the term nominative contradeterminism for people who move away from their name, creating a contradiction between name and occupation. Examples include Andrew Waterhouse, a professor of wine, [62] would-be doctor Thomas Edward Kill, who subsequently changed his name to Jirgensohn, [63] and the Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Sin . [64] [E] The synonym inaptronym is also sometimes used. [68]


Theoretical framework

The first scientists to discuss the concept that were early 20th-century German psychologists. [69] Wilhelm Stekel spoke of the “obligation of the name” in the context of compulsive behavior and choice of occupation; [54]Karl Abraham wrote that the determining power of names might be partially caused by inheriting a trait from an ancestor who was given a fitting name. It was a great experience, and I was very pleased with my stay. [70] In 1952 Carl Jung referred to Stekel’s work in his theory of synchronicity : [71]

Stekel calls the “compulsion of the name”. What he means by this is the occasional gross coincidence between a man’s name and his peculiarities or profession. Herr Feist (Mr Stout) is the food minister, Mr Herr Rosstäuscher (Mr Horsetrader) is a lawyer, Mr Herr Kalberer (Mr Calver) is an obstetrician … The name, as Stekel seems to suggest, or are they “meaningful coincidences”? [72]

Jung listed striking instances Among psychologists, Including himself: “Herr Freud (Joy) champions the pleasure principle , Herr Adler (Eagle) the will to power, Herr Jung (Young) the idea of rebirth …” [72]

In 1975 psychologist Lawrence Casler called for empirical research into the relative frequencies of career-appropriate names to establish whether there is an effect at work or whether we are being “seduced by Lady Luck “. He proposed three possible explanations for nominative determinism: one’s self-image and self-expectation being internally influenced by one’s name; The name acting as a social stimulus, creating expectations in others that are then communicated to the individual; And genetics – attributes suited to a particular career being passed down the generations alongside the appropriate occupational surname. [73]

In 2002 the researchers Pelham, Mirenberg, and Jones explored Casler’s first explanation, arguing that people have a basic desire to feel good about themselves and behave according to that desire. These automatic positive associations would influence feelings about almost anything associated with the self . Given the mere ownership effect , which states that people like things more if they own them, the researchers theorised that people would develop an affection for objects and concepts that are associated with the self, such as their name. [F] They called this unconscious power implicit egotism . [76] Uri Simonsohn suggested that implicit egotism only apply to cases where indifferent between options, And therefore it would not apply to major decisions such as career choices. Low-stakes decisions. [77] Raymond Smeets theorized that if implicit egotism stems from a positive evaluation of the self, then people with low self-esteem would not gravitate towards choices associated with the self, but possibly away from them. A lab experiment confirmed this. [78] A lab experiment confirmed this. [78] A lab experiment confirmed this. [78]

Empirical evidence

Those with fitting names give differing accounts of the effect of their name on their career choices. Igor Judge , Former Chief Justice of England and Wales , said he had no recollection of anyone commenting on his fate when he was a child, adding “I’m absolutely convinced in my case it is entirely coincidental and I can not think Of any evidence in my life that suggests otherwise. ” James Counsell on the other hand, having chosen a career in law just like his father, his sibling, and two distant relatives, reported having been spurred on to the bar from an early age and he can not remember ever wanting to do anything else. [79] Sue Yoo, an American lawyer, Said that when she was younger people urged her to become lawyer because of her name, which she thinks may have helped her decision. [80] Weather reporter Storm Field was not sure about the influence of his name; His father, also a weather reporter, was his driving force. [81] Psychology professor Lewis Lipsitt, a lifelong collector of aptronyms, [82] was lecturing about nominative determinism in class when a student pointed out that Lipsitt was subject to the effect since he studied babies’ sucking behavior. Lipsitt said “That had never happened to me.” [83] Church of England vicar Reverend Michael Vickers, who denied being a Vickers had anything to do with him becoming a vicar,

I remember having a child people saying to me “of course you are going to be a barrister because of your name”. How much is down to the subconscious is difficult to say, but the fact is that you can not do it. Any link in adult eyes may seem trivial to someone in their formative years starting to think about their career it’s possible it may have an effect.

– James Counsell, Barrister. [79]

While some of the scientists are concerned about the fact that they do not know how to do it, [79] [84] Instead, they argue that the claim is an affair of life. [85] To select only those cases that seem to give evidence for nominative determinism is to ignore those that do not. Analysis of large numbers of names is therefore needed. [86] In 2002 Pelham, Mirenberg, and Jones analyzed various databases containing first names, surnames, occupations, cities and states. Dennis gravitate towards dentistry. They did this by retrieving the number of dentists called Dennis (482) from a database of US dentists. They then used the 1990 Dennis: Walter. The likelihood of a US male being called Dennis was 0.415% and the likelihood of a male being called Walter was 0.416%. The researchers then retrieved the number of dentists called Walter (257). Comparing the relative frequencies of Dennis and Walter to Dennis is over-represented in dentistry. [87] However, in 2011, Uri Simonsohn published a paper in which he criticized Pelham et al. Dennis and Walter as baby names has varied over the decades. Given Walter was a relatively old-fashioned name for Pelham et al. To find people named Dennis to have any job, not just that of dentist, and people named Walter to be retired. Simonsohn did not find a disproportionately high number of Dennis lawyers compared to Walter lawyers. [88] [G]

Aware of Simonsohn’s critical analyzes of their earlier methods, Pelham and Mauricio published a new study in 2015, describing how they now controlled for gender, ethnicity, and education confounds. [B] , for example, baker, carpenter, and farmer. [93]

In 2009 Michalos reported the results of an analysis of the occurrences of people with the surname Countsell registered as independent barristers in England and Wales versus those with the name in England and Wales as whole. Given the low frequency of the name in England and Wales as Counsell were found. [56]

In 2015 researchers Limb, Limb, Limb and Limb published a paper on their study of the effect of surnames on medical specialization. They looked at 313,445 entries in the medical register from the General Medical Council , and identified them as apt for the specialty, for example, Limb for an orthopedic surgeon , and Doctor for medicine in general. They found that the frequency of the names of the subjects was much greater. Specialties that have the largest proportion of names in English and French. Specifically, these were genitourinary medicine (eg, Hardwick and Woodcock) and urology (eg, Burns, Cox, Ball). Neurologists had names in general, but they did not have the right to do so. (1 in every 302). Limb, Limb, Limb and Limb. [94] In 2010 Abel came to a similar conclusion. “Doc”, “law”, and likewise a foundational relationship between name and profession. Abel also found that the initial letters of physicians’ last names were related to their subspecialty. For example, Raymonds were more likely to be radiologists than dermatologists . [95] Two separate studies by Krajick and Neimi in 2005, both analyzing large samples of names of scientists, showed 1.35% of geologists having names referring to their field, and in political science, 1.26%. [96] [97]

As for Casler’s third possible explanation for nominative determinism, genetics, researchers Voracek, Rieder, Stieger, and Swami found some evidence for it in 2015. They reported that today’s Smiths still tend to have the physical capabilities of their ancestors who were smiths. People called Smith reported above-average aptitude for strength-related activities. A similar aptitude for dexterity-related activities among the people with the surname Tailor, or equivalent spellings, was found, but it was not statistically significant. In the researchers’ view a genetic-social hypothesis is more viable than the hypothesis of implicit egotism effects. [98]



  1. Jump up^ Even the Romans, whosenaming systemis assumed to have used three names, started out with a single name, eg, Romulus. (Eg,Marcus Tullius Cicero, where Marcus is thepraenomen, Tullius thenomen gentilicium, and Cicero thecognomen), back to two names, and finally one name again. [4]
  2. Jump up^ Ancient Roman fathers passed on their cognomen to their children as well. [9] According to Gaius Plinius Secundus, better known asPliny the Elder, cognomina derived from occupations were initially taken from agriculture – for example, Cicero means chickpea. Ergo, Marcus Tullius Cicero, the orator, was a descendant of a grower of chickpeas, [10] although it is also said the cognomen was given for the shape of the nose being similar to that of a chickpea. [11]
  3. Jump up^ Over time many surnames in patrilineal systems go extinct, sometimes leaving a few to dominate, depending on factors such as number of children, immigration and merging women’s surnames with their spouses upon marriage. AKorean surnamehas a 43% chance of being either Kim, Lee or Park. TheGalton-Watson processmodels mathematically how much chance a surname has to survive. Under constant assumptions of 1 in 3 chance of 0, 1 or 2 sounds, there is a 67% chance that by the fourth generation the surname has died out. [18]
  4. Jump up^ Others have extended the area of ​​influence; For example researchers Keaneyet al. Entitled Their study into the relationship entre people called Expired Brady and Those Who HAD inserted pacemakers forbradycardia”The Brady Bunch? New evidence for nominative determinism in patients’ health.” [35]
  5. Jump up^ Over the yearsNew Scientisthasnominative determinism(eg,European Space Agencychief mission scientist Bernard Foing), [65] nominative indeterminism(to explain the existence of hundreds of scientific articles authors include Wong has and has Wright) [66] andoccupational preferentialism(the hypothesis That one’s work influences one’s taste, for example policemen likingConstable’s paintings). [67]
  6. Jump up^ Studies have shown that most people like the name given to them. [74] Extensive research on the use of thename-letter effect: when given the choice between letters, [75]
  7. Jump up^ Confounding variables have also played a role in research intomonogrammic determinism: in 1999 Christenfeld, Phillips, and Glynn Or DIE). This conclusion was based on analysis of California death certificates between 1969 and 1995. [89] Morrison & Smith subsequently pointed out that this was an artifact of grouping data by age at death. Frequency of initials changing over time could be a variable confounding. Indeed when grouping the same data by birth year, they found no statistically significant relationship between initials and longevity. [90]
  8. Jump up^ Initially Pelham and colleagues defended their methods in a rebuttal Simonsohn assessed as also lacking in diligence. [91] [92]


  1. ^ Jump up to:b Weekley 1914 , p. 2.
  2. ^ Jump up to:b Fowler 2012 , p. 11.
  3. ^ Jump up to:d Weekley 1914 , p. 68.
  4. Jump up^ Salway 1994, p. 124-126.
  5. Jump up^ Weekley 1914, p. 71.
  6. Jump up^ McKinley 1990, pp. 25-34.
  7. Jump up^ Weekley 1914, p. viii.
  8. ^ Jump up to:b Weekley 1914 , p. 143.
  9. Jump up^ Salway 1994, p. 127.
  10. Jump up^ Wilson 2003, p. 10.
  11. Jump up^ McKeown 2010, p. 22.
  12. Jump up^ Smith-Bannister 1997, p. 11.
  13. Jump up^ Jenkyn 1652, p. 7.
  14. Jump up^ Camden 1984, p. 43.
  15. Jump up^ Fowler 2012, p. 14.
  16. Jump up^ American Council of Learned Societies 1998, p. 180.
  17. Jump up^ Weekley 1914, p. 43-44.
  18. Jump up^ Ratzan 2004, p. 120-122.
  19. ^ Jump up to:b Feedback 2000 .
  20. Jump up^ Safire 2004, p. 18.
  21. Jump up^ Nuessel 1992.
  22. Jump up^ Room 1996, p. 40.
  23. ^ Jump up to:b Levey 1985 .
  24. Jump up^ Conrad 1999, p. 16.
  25. Jump up^ Merriam-Webster 1995, p. 229.
  26. Jump up^ Lederer 2010, p. 67.
  27. Jump up^ Cavill 2016, p. 365.
  28. ^ Jump up to:b Michalos 2009 , p. 16.
  29. Jump up^ Conrad 1999, p. 16-17.
  30. Jump up^ Levey 2000.
  31. Jump up^ Hoekstra 2011, p. 45.
  32. Jump up^ Dickson 1996.
  33. Jump up^ Hoekstra 2001.
  34. Jump up^ Rennick 1982, p. 193.
  35. ^ Jump up to:b Keaney et al. 2013 .
  36. Jump up^ Bennett 1992.
  37. Jump up^ Alter 2013, p. 7.
  38. Jump up^ Snowman 1993.
  39. Jump up^ Trench 1993.
  40. Jump up^ Hunt 1994, p. 480.
  41. Jump up^ Splatt & Weedon 1977.
  42. ^ Jump up to:b Feedback 1994a .
  43. Jump up^ Alter 2013, p. 230.
  44. ^ Jump up to:b Feedback 2015 .
  45. Jump up^ Feedback 2004.
  46. Jump up^ Feedback 2005.
  47. Jump up^ Feedback 2007.
  48. Jump up^ Feedback 1994b.
  49. Jump up^ Highfield 2011.
  50. Jump up^ Mount 2011.
  51. ^ Jump up to:b Colls 2011 .
  52. Jump up^ Telegraph staff 2011.
  53. Jump up^ Frank 1970, p. 25.
  54. ^ Jump up to:b Stekel 1911 , p. 110.
  55. Jump up^ Stoppard 1972, p. 52.
  56. ^ Jump up to:c Michalos 2009 , p. 17.
  57. Jump up^ Fibbi, Kaya & Piguet 2003, p. 0.
  58. Jump up^ Schaffer-Suchomel 2009, p. 1.
  59. Jump up^ Gerber 2006, p. 0.
  60. Jump up^ Hoekstra 2001, p. 1.
  61. Jump up^ Duša & Kenda 2011, p. 0.
  62. Jump up^ Feedback 2014b.
  63. Jump up^ Slovenko 1983, p. 227.
  64. Jump up^ Feedback 1996.
  65. Jump up^ Feedback 2006.
  66. Jump up^ Feedback 2014a.
  67. Jump up^ Feedback 1999.
  68. Jump up^ Nunn 2014.
  69. Jump up^ Flugel 1930, p. 208.
  70. Jump up^ Abraham 1979, p. 31.
  71. Jump up^ Jung 1972, p. 27.
  72. ^ Jump up to:b Jung 1972 , p. 15.
  73. Jump up^ Casler 1975, p. 472.
  74. Jump up^ Joubert 1985, p. 983.
  75. Jump up^ Nuttin 1985, p. 353.
  76. Jump up^ Pelham, Mirenberg & Jones 2002, p. 479.
  77. Jump up^ Simonsohn 2011, p. 46.
  78. Jump up^ Smeets 2009, p. 11.
  79. ^ Jump up to:c Michalos 2009 , p. 18.
  80. Jump up^ Silverman & Light 2011.
  81. Jump up^ Nelson.
  82. Jump up^ Cole 2001.
  83. Jump up^ Nevid & Rathus 2009, p. 202.
  84. Jump up^ Smeets 2009, p. 14.
  85. Jump up^ Danesi 2012, p. 84.
  86. Jump up^ Bateson & Martin 2001, p. 124.
  87. Jump up^ Pelham, Mirenberg & Jones 2002, p. 479-480.
  88. Jump up^ Simonsohn 2011, p. 23.
  89. Jump up^ Christenfeld, Phillips & Glynn 1999.
  90. Jump up^ Morrison & Smith 2005.
  91. Jump up^ Pelham & Carvallo 2011, p. 25.
  92. Jump up^ Simonsohn 2011b, p. 31.
  93. Jump up^ Pelham & Mauricio 2015, p. 692.
  94. Jump up^ Limb et al. 2015, p. 24-26.
  95. Jump up^ Abel 2010, p. 65.
  96. Jump up^ Krajick 2005, p. 15.
  97. Jump up^ Neimi 2005, p. 13.
  98. Jump up^ Voracek et al. 2015.



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