The Dorian Gray Effect: How a Name Affects Appearance and Success in Life

When we are told "Uncle Vasya", we imagine quite a classic Uncle Vasya - slightly plump, not too tall, with a round face and a good-natured smile. And if someone nearby talks about a girl named Marusya, we immediately see a typical Russian beauty with milky-white skin, blue eyes and a fair-haired braid.

Our idea that people who bear the same name have similar physical features, however, is not just a coincidence. A recent study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology showed that a given birth name can influence a person's appearance throughout their life and possibly personality traits through stereotypes and cultural expectations.

Name can change appearance and personality

“Previous research suggests that cultural stereotypes are attached to all names that, among other things, tell how a person should look, ” explains Yonat Zwebner, Ph.D. at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem ( The Hebrew University of Jerusalem) and lead author of the study.

Scientists have called this phenomenon "the Dorian Gray effect", referring to the metamorphosis that occurred with the main character of the novel by Oscar Wilde. Thus, Yonat Zwebner suggests that, like a portrait that changed under the influence of Dorian's actions, our appearance changes under the influence of cultural norms and the lines associated with our name.

To investigate this effect, scientists conducted a series of experiments involving hundreds of volunteers from Israel and France. In the first experiment, participants were shown a photograph and asked to choose a name that they thought matched the person from a list of 4-5 names. It found that participants were 25-40% more accurate when matching name to face than when researchers asked to match name to ethnicity, age, and other socioeconomic variables.

Next, using a special algorithm, the researchers trained the computer to match names with faces. More than 94, 000 images were included in the database, and the success rate in the end was 54-64%. Thanks to the computer, scientists were also able to identify one interesting feature: it turned out that people with the same name have similarities in the area around the eyes and in the corners of the mouth.

“Sometimes the stereotypical expectations of others affect who we become, ” Zwebner comments. The expert means that in any society there are certain social expectations about how a person with a particular name should look. When meeting, you can often hear the phrase: "Wow, you are not at all like Masha ..." The name can be any, but the meaning remains the same - all Masha are somewhat similar to each other, and the girl in question, for some reason- it is different from them.

Popularity and success: how to choose a name for a child

What is the name of the child? Every parent faces this question. However, the question should be taken as seriously as possible, since it is quite possible that the name you give your baby will have long-term consequences for him. In particular, it will have an impact on success in life and popularity in society.

Research from the University of California shows that a name's success depends on four categories: whether a name is considered “cute and caring”, “funny and popular”, “successful”, and whether it is considered “masculine or feminine. ". The problem is that the name may appear on the first line in one of the categories, but on the last - in others.

Scientists have found that a teacher can rate an essay higher if the student has a more "intelligent" name. The jury will most likely vote for the beauty queen with a more "feminine" name. And the employer is more likely to be interested in a candidate's resume with a “simple and traditional” name.

Today in Russia there is a fairly clear tendency for non-trivial baby names. The New York Times, however, reports that children with unusual names tend to perform worse in school and are less popular with classmates. And at university, these same children are more likely to suffer from mood disorders.

Thus, along with gender, age, ethnicity and socio-economic status, our name is what structures us socially. And we really can try all our lives to correspond to it, but, on the other hand, it is we who form our names, giving them special features peculiar only to people with this name.