(U-WIRE) UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – No wonder Cher never went to college. Aside from her grade-crippling dyslexia, Cher was doomed from the start — all because of her name, according to a new study.
Students with the initials C and D earn lower grade point averages than students with different initials, according to a study to be published this month in the journal Psychological Science.
The study is in response to the name-letter effect, a subconscious phenomenon that influences people’s life decisions in accordance with their initials.
For example, Jack is “more likely to buy a Jaguar, move to Jacksonville and marry Jackie,” the study said.
But some Pennsylvania State University students are not convinced.
“I don’t try to get Cs. I drive a Tucson. I’ve never dated anyone who had a C name. I haven’t had any Cs in college yet,” said Carly Mallenbaum (freshman-communications), a Schreyer Honor College student.
Co-authors Joseph P. Simmons, a professor at Yale University, and Leif Nelson, a professor at University of California-San Diego, decided to test the NLE in performance-based arenas, specifically looking at sports and academics.
“We wondered if this happens in a performance domain,” Simmons said. “What happens when initials are attached to negative outcomes?”
The researchers compiled the GPAs of 15,000 graduate students during a 15-year period.
Their study states that students with the initials C and D, which correspond with mediocre grades, had lower GPAs.
“We just wanted to show a really nice example of how the unconscious mind can exert its influence on people,” Simmons said. But, he added, the effect of NLE is small.
Frank Ritter, Penn State psychology professor, said the study lends itself to more questions.
“There are possibly other contributing factors, given the newness of the study. The potential difference of background and how names are chosen could be some of the causes,” he said.
Mike Cline (freshman-computer science) said he doesn’t think the study affects him personally.
“I have had a GPA above a 4.0 my entire life. So for me, it’s not true,” he said.
The authors also looked at the effects based on Major League Baseball statistics.
They analyzed 93 years of strikeout statistics and proved their hypothesis correct: Players with a K initial, the letter used to denote a strikeout, struck out more than others.
“Baseball was the first thing we tested. We were a little shocked that it worked,” Simmons said.
Scott Kelley, a Penn State outfielder with a .230 batting average, said the findings are “ridiculous.”
“In terms of striking out, your name is the last thing you are thinking about in the batter’s box,” he said.