Do We Look Like Our Names? New Research Says Yes27-02-2017
Study suggests that people “live up to their name” with their facial appearance
We're told not to judge a book by its cover, but we make instant judgments about people’s intelligence, trustworthiness or dominance based on their facial appearance. Now, researchers have investigated the reverse possibility: can the way people judge us influence how we look?
To answer this question, researchers led by Dr. Ruth Mayo and PhD candidate Yonat Zwebner at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem examined whether a person's appearance can be influenced by their given name. To do this, they recruited independent observers and showed them color headshot photographs of complete strangers. Then they presented a list of names to the observers and asked them to choose the stranger's real name based on his or her facial appearance.
In a series of studies (now reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology), the observers repeatedly beat the odds of correctly identifying a person's name based on their facial appearance alone. For example, upon looking at the face and considering four possible names¾Jacob, Dan, Josef or Nathaniel¾observers correctly chose “Dan” 38% of the time, significantly above the 25% chance level of a random guess. This effect held true even when the researchers controlled for age and ethnicity, implying that something more than simple socioeconomic cues is at work.
"Our research demonstrates that indeed people do look like their name," said Dr. Ruth Mayo, senior lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “Furthermore, we suggest this happens because of a process of self-fulfilling prophecy, as we become what other people expect us to become.”
Supporting the notion of a self-fulfilling prophecy, the researchers found that observers beat the odds of correctly guessing a person’s name even when they were only allowed to see their hairstyle. This suggests that people may choose the hairstyle that fits a stereotype associated with their name.
The researchers confirmed that observers in a second country and culture were also able to beat the odds. However while observers were good at matching faces to names in their own culture, they were not good at doing so in a foreign culture. This supports the idea that name stereotypes are important when matching faces with names.
The researchers also found that observers are less good at guessing the given name of people who use a nickname exclusively. This indicates that a person’s appearance is affected by their name only if they use it, and not if it simply appears on a birth certificate.
In one study, the researchers completely removed the human factor from the matching process. Using a computerized paradigm, they found that computers were able to beat the odds when asked to choose the correct name for 94,000 different faces. This further supports the idea that our faces contain relevant information related to our names.
The researchers suggest the "Dorian Gray effect," cited in previous research on how internal factors like personality can influence facial appearance, may apply here as well. Dorian Gray was the protagonist of an Oscar Wilde novel whose actions affected his portrait.
"We are familiar with similar processes from other stereotypes like race and gender, where many times the stereotypical expectations of others affect who we become. We hypothesize that there are similar stereotypes about names, including how someone with a specific name looks, and these expectations really do affect our facial appearance," said Dr. Mayo from the Hebrew University.
According to the researchers, the possibility that our name can influence our look, even to a small extent, suggests the important role of social structuring in the complex interaction between the self and society. The research suggests that we are subject to social structuring from the minute we are born, not only by our gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, but also by the simple choice that others make in giving us our name.
"A name is an external social factor, different from other social factors such as gender or ethnicity, therefore representing an ultimate social tag. The demonstration of our name being manifested in our facial appearance illustrates the great power that a social factor can have on our identity, potentially influencing even the way we look," added Dr. Mayo.
Future research could examine the precise nature of the mechanism leading to the emergence of this face-name matching effect, for example how a person’s name matches his or her face at different stages of life. Another question worth exploring is why some people have a very high face-name match while others have a low match.
The Hebrew University and the Rothberg International School express our deep sorrow over the murder of Hannah Bladon15-04-2017
The new Centre will serve as one of the worlds leading institutes for conducting and coordinating research about cannabinoids, endocannabinoids and medical Cannabis05-04-2017
2017 marked the 20th anniversary of The Sir Sigmund and Lady Hazel Sternberg Prizes for Interfaith Understanding04-04-2017
Even at the cellular level, stress and the ability to mount a stress response are essential to our survival04-04-2017
Without these teachers, many of these high schools simply wouldn't have science teachers30-03-2017
62% of school-age children and 85% of pregnant women have low iodine intakes27-03-2017
The evening was hosted by Lord Pannick QC, Chairman of the Legal Group16-03-2017
In the biggest deal to ever hit Israels hi-tech industry, US chip giant Intel will be buying JerusalemÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s autonomous driving company Mobileye for about $15 billion13-03-2017
Yissum Research Development Company of the Hebrew University, announced today that it has signed an agreement with Lolo Educational Services Co., Korea08-03-2017
This new policy will significantly increase the number of East Jerusalem Palestinians who attend the University02-03-2017
The Order of Merit recognizes Prof. Ben-Sasson's outstanding, extensive, and personal commitment to German-Israeli relations in the field of science, and thus to the cooperation between our two nations01-03-2017
Study suggests that people 'live up to their name' with their facial appearance27-02-2017
Hebrew University researchers describe how infectious bacteria sense they are attached to intestinal cells and remodel their gene expression to exploit our cells and colonize our gut22-02-2017
In both groups, recreational sun exposure, black hair-dye use, a history of hospitalization for infection, and having a first-degree relative with a blood cancer were associated with B-NHL. Each group had unique risk factors too.19-02-2017
Lord Pannick, QC, at Blackstone Chambers, acted for the lead claimant Gina Miller in the historic 11-justice Supreme Court case.09-02-2017
Hebrew University biophysicists used quantitative approaches from Physics to understand issues in Biology09-02-2017
Hebrew University Truman Institute together with Scholas Occurrentes Educational Organization established by Pope Francis, are developing a conference and a programme on Culture of Encounter through Education in Jerusalem08-02-2017
Results obtained in a joint trial with Israel Electric Corporation (IEC)06-02-2017
Hebrew University researchers are part of an international team that identified the chemical compounds and the functional genes that give a tomato its great taste05-02-2017
Prof. Liebes, from the Department of Jewish Thought, awarded for his work in Kaballah and Jewish myth05-02-2017
Discovery of the Dipole Repeller confirms that both attraction and repulsion are at play in our extragalactic neighbourhood30-01-2017
Hebrew University Researchers provide new insight into the brain mechanisms underlying a condition that causes reading and writing difficulties25-01-2017
New fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls have been uncovered by Archaeologists working on a salvage excavation in the Cave of Skulls by the Dead Sea in Israel.10-01-2017
American and Israeli research teams are preparing to explore treatments for cancer using science and engineering at the molecular level, commonly known as nanotechnology.10-01-2017
Bacteriophages (phages) are probably the most abundant entities in nature, often exceeding bacterial densities by an order of magnitude.10-01-2017
Scientists present first direct evidence that human neocortical neurons have unique membrane properties that enhance signal processing04-01-2017
States can no longer legislate solely within their own boundaries; project aims address war, crime and privacy in cyberspace04-01-2017