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, after the magazine’s humorous feedback column noted several studies carried out by researchers with remarkably fitting supernames . 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. Since the term appeared, nominative determinism has been an 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, en ce que focusses it is causality. “Aptronym” simply means the name is fitting.

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 indicated that some professions are disproportionately represented by people with appropriate supernames (and sometimes given names), though the methods of these studies have been challenged. One explanation for nominative determinism is implicit egotism , which states that humans have an unconscious preference for things they associate with themselves. An alternative explanation is geneticThey may have been named Smith or Taylor because of their occupation, and they would pass on their genes to their descendants, including an aptitude for activities involving strength in the box of Smith, or dexterity in the case of Taylor.


Before they could have their names, they would have been given names that matched their area of ​​work. [1] The way people are named has changed over time. [2] In pre-urban times people are known only for a single name – for example, the Anglo-Saxon name Beornheard. [3] [A] Single names were chosen for their meaning or given as nicknames . [3] [5] In England It was only partner after the Norman conquest That Were added surnames, ALTHOUGH There Were A Few Earlier bynames That 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 become so. [7] related to trades or craft were the first to become hereditary, as the craft often persisted 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 is the importance attached to the general meaning of a name. In 17th-century England it was believed that choosing a child should be done carefully. 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 should be “a thread about the finger to make us mindful of the world in our world 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 Camdenwrote that names should be chosen 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 spreads spread across large portions of the globe. [16]

By the beginning of the 20th century, Smith and Taylor were two of the three 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 did occur, it became worthy of note. In the year 1888 issue of the Kentish Note Book magazine appeared with “several carriers of the name of Carter”, named “Hosegood”, “auctioneer named Sales” and “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 columnistFranklin 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 called a charactonym . [25] Notable authors who frequently used charactonyms as a stylistic technique include Charles Dickens (eg, Mr. Gradgrind , the tyrannical schoolmaster) [26] andWilliam Shakespeare(eg, the lost baby Perdita in The Winter’s Tale ). [27] Unlike nominative determinism, the concept of apathor and its synonyms do not say anything about causality, ie, the name has come to fit. [28]

Because of the potentially humorous nature of a number of newspapers collected. San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen has reportedly been reported to be incomplete, 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 on the occasion of the Washington Post : a food industry consultant named Faith Popcorn, a lieutenant called Sergeant, and a tax accountant called Shelby Goldgrab. [23] [30] Dutch newspaper Het Paroolhad an irregularly featured column called “Nomen is omen” with Dutch examples. [31] Individual name collectors have also published books of aptronyms. [32] [33] Onomastic scholar Rennick RM called for more verification of aptronyms appearing in newspaper columns and books. [34] Lists of aptronyms in science, medicine, and law are more reliable than ever. [35] [36]


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

The New Scientist magazine in 1994. A series of events raised the suspicion of its editor, John Hoyland, who wrote in the 5 November issue:

We recently came 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 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 study in the fields of science and technology (with references that check out, please) together with any hypotheses. [42]

Feedback editors John Hoyland and Mike Holderness subsequently adopted nominative determinism as suggested by reader CR Cavonius. The term first appeared in the December 17 issue. [43] Even though the magazine tried to ban the topic Numerous times over 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 Lt. Mike Kafka; [45] authors of the book The Imperial Animal Lionel Tiger and Robin Fox; [46] and the UK Association of Chiefs of Police Officers’ spokesman on knife crime, Alfred Hitchcock. [47]

As used in New Scientist the term nominative determinism only applies to work. [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 psychological effect were used sporadically. Onomastic determinism was used as early as 1970 by Roberta Frank . [53] German psychologist Wilhelm Stekel spoke of “Die Verpflichtung des 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 has been captured by the Latin proverb “nomen est omen”, meaning the name is a sign. [56]This saying is still in use [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 will sooner 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 had a determining effect 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 power of names could be partially caused by an inheriting property. He made the future inference that families with their names might be trying to make their name. [70] In 1952 Carl Jungreferred to Stekel’s work in his theory of synchronicity : [71]

We find ourselves in something when we come to make up our minds about the phenomenon which we call “compulsion of the name”. What he means by this is the case of a coincidence between a man’s name and his peculiarities or profession. For instance … Herr Feist (Mr Stout) is the food minister, Herr Rosstäuscher (Mr Horsetrader) is a lawyer, Herr Kalberer (Mr Calver) is an obstetrician … Are these the whimsicalities of luck, or the suggestive effects of 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 on the relative frequencies of career-appropriate names to establish if there is an effect at work or whether we are “seduced by Lady Luck “. Proposed 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 to a particular career being passed down to the next generation. [73]

In 2002 the researchers Pelham, Mirenberg, and Jones explored Casler’s first explanation, arguing that they have a basic desire to feel good about themselves and behave according to that desire. These positive positive associations would have some influence on everything associated with the self . Given the mere ownership effect , states qui That people like things more If They own ’em, 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 applies to cases where people are almost indifferent between options, and therefore it would not be possible to make decisions. Low-stakes decisions such as choosing a charity would show an effect. [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]

Empirical evidence

Those with fitting names give different accounts of the effect of their name on their career choices. Judge Igor Judge , Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales , said he did not recollection of anyone commenting on his profession 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 distant relative, reported having been spurred on to join 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, she became a lawyer because of her name. [80] Storm Field weather reporter was not sure about the influence of his name; his father, also a weather reporter, was his driving force. [81] Lewis Lipsitt’s psychology professor, a lifelong collector of aptronyms, [82] was discussed about nominative determinism in class when a student pointed out that Lipsitt himself was subject to the effect of having studied sucking behavior. Lipsitt said, “That had never happened to me.” [83] Church of EnglandVicar Reverend Michael Vickers, who is a Vicker, who is a Vicker, who says that they are actually going to get away from their name, rather than moving towards their job. [51]

I remember as a child people saying to me “of course you are going to be a barrister because of your name”. How much is the subject of the subconscious? Any link in adult eyes may seem trivial but to someone in their formative years starting to think about their career it may be possible.

– James Counsell, Barrister. [79]

While reports by owners of fitting names are of interest, some scientists have questioned their value in deciding whether or not nominative determinism is a real effect. [79] [84] Instead, they argue that the claim that a name affects life decisions is an extraordinary one that requires extraordinary evidence. [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, supernames, 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 Census to find the first most popular after Dennis: Walter. The likelihood of a US male being called was 0.415% and the likelihood of a male being called was 0.416%. The researchers then retrieved the number of dentists called Walter (257). Dennis and Dennis are 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 have varied over the decades. Pelham et al. ( 2000) to find people named Walter to be retired. Simonsohn did indeed find a disproportionately high number of Dennis lawyers compared to Walter lawyers. [88] [G]

A Pelham and Mauricio published in a new study in 2015, describing how they are now controlled for gender, ethnicity, and education confounds. [H] In a study they looked at census data and found that they disproportionately worked in eleven occupations with titles that matched their surnames, for example, baker, carpenter, and farmer. [93]

In 2009, Michalos reported the results of an analysis of the occurrence of people with the name of a member of the United Kingdom and Wales. Counsell were found in the United States of America. [56]

In 2015 Limb, Limb, Limb and Limb researchers published a paper on their study of the effect of supernames 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 names in medicine and subspecialties was much greater than expected by chance. Those that have the largest proportion of terms of reference for that purpose are those for which the English language has provided a wide range of alternative terms for the same anatomical parts (or functions thereof). Specifically, these were genitourinary medicine(eg, Hardwick and Woodcock) and urology (eg, Burns, Cox, Ball). Neurologists had names in general medicine, but far fewer had names in their specialty (1 in every 302). Limb, Limb, Limb and Limb did not report on any confounding variables. [94] In 2010 Abel came to a similar conclusion. In this study, the authors of their professions, for example, “doc”, “law”, and similarly found a significant relationship between name and profession. Abel also found that the initial letters of physicians’ last names were significantly related to their subspecialty. For example,than dermatologists . [95] Two separate studies by Krajick and Neimi in 2005, 1.35% of geologists having names in 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 ability for dexterity-related activities among people with the surname Tailor, or equivalent, was found, but it was not statistically significant. In the researchers’ view of a genetic-social hypothesis appears more viable than the hypothesis of implicit egotism effects. [98]



  1. Jump up^ Even the Romans, Whosenaming systemis Generally ASSUMED to-have used three names, started out with a single name, eg, Romulus. (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 on their cognomen to their children as well. [9] According to Gaius Plinius Secundus, better known asPliny the Elder, cognomina derived from occupations was taken from agriculture – for example, Cicero means chickpea. Ergo, Marcus Tullius Cicero, the orator, was a descendant of a grower of chickpeas, [10] but it is also said that it is given for the shape of the nose being similar to that of a chickpea. [11]
  3. Jump up^ Over time many supernames in patrilineal systems go extinct, sometimes leaving a few to dominate, depending on factors such as number of male children, immigration and merging women’s supernames with their spouses upon marriage. AKorean surnamehas a 43% chance of being Kim, Lee or Park. TheGalton-Watson processmodels mathematically how much luck 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 the fourth generation has died. [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 ScientistHAS Reported are other variations on the theme, Includingonomatopoeic nominative determinism(eg,European Space Agencychief Mission scientist Bernard Foing), [65] registered indeterminism(to explain the existence of Hundreds of Scientific Articles Whose authors include a Wong and a Wright), [66] andoccupational preferentialism(the hypothesis that one’s work influences one’s taste, for example policemen likingConstable’spaintings). [67]
  6. Jump up^ Studies have shown that most people like the name given to them.[74] Extensive research also has found a strong effect called the name-letter effect: when given the choice between letters, people significantly prefer the ones from their own name.[75]
  7. Jump up^ Confounding variables have also played a role in research into monogrammic determinism: in 1999 Christenfeld, Phillips, and Glynn concluded that people who have positive monograms (e.g., ACE or VIP) live significantly longer than those with negative initials (e.g., PIG or DIE). This conclusion was based on analysis of thousands 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 confounding variable. 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:a b Weekley 1914, p. 2.
  2. ^ Jump up to:a b Fowler 2012, p. 11.
  3. ^ Jump up to:a b c 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 2011 Coll .
  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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