The name-pronunciation effect: Why people like Mr. Smith more than Mr. Colquhoun

31 May 2012

Names are rich sources of information. They can signal gender, ethnicity, or class; they may connote personality characteristics ranging from warmth and cheerfulness to morality. But names also differ in a much more fundamental way: some are simply easier to pronounce than others. Five studies provide evidence for the name-pronunciation effect: easy-to-pronounce names (and their bearers) are judged more positively than difficult-to-pronounce names. Studies 1–3 demonstrate that people form more positive impressions of easy-to-pronounce names than of difficult-to-pronounce names. Study 4 finds this effect generalizable to ingroup targets. Study 5 highlights an important real-world implication of the name-pronunciation effect: people with easier-to-pronounce surnames occupy higher status positions in law firms. These effects obtain independent of name length, unusualness, typicality, foreignness, and orthographic regularity. This work demonstrates the potency of processing fluency in the information rich context of impression formation.


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