A new study by the University of Limerick has found that using a middle initial gives a strong impression of intellectual ability.
Researchers Dr Wijnand A P van Tilburg (University of Southampton) and Dr Eric R Igou (University of Limerick) document that people can benefit from displaying their middle initials.
Dr Igou explained: “At the start of this research project we discussed various findings suggesting that names have a tremendous impact on person perception and on life in general.
“We then wanted to examine the impact of middle names, and in particular the impact of middle initials, on perceptions that people form about others with, versus without middle initials in their names.
“Middle initials are often displayed in contexts in which intellectual achievements matter. We thus predicted that the display of middle initials would increase perception of intellectual capacities and performance, and this is exactly what we found.
“Importantly, however, these person perceptions are limited to contexts where intellectual achievements are central.”
Specifically, the authors document this effect in a series of studies with more than 500 participants.
For example, in Study 1, an essay from an author by the name of David Clark was evaluated less positively than the same essay written by an author named David F P R Clark.
The middle initials effect only occurred in domains where intellectual performance matters (eg intellectual quizzes) but not where intellectual performances are secondary (eg team sports).
Dr Igou said: “These findings strongly suggest that people benefit from displaying their middle name initials in situations in which intellectual performance matters.
“Importantly, the middle initials effect on inferences about intellectual performance was based on the perception of status.
“For example, a person with no middle initial was seen as lesser in status than one with middle initials, and this difference accounted largely for the inferences about intellect.”
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