The Province

Easy-to-say names foster trust, study shows

- GORDON MCINTYRE THE PROVINCE gordmcinty­re@theprovinc­­re

What’s in a name? More than you knew, according to a study co-written by a psychologi­st at Kwantlen Polytechni­c University in Surrey.

The easier your name is to pronounce, the more trustworth­y you seem and the more likely you are to be seen as accomplish­ed and likable, said the study published Wednesday.

“To the Fred Flintstone parts of our brains, that feeling of familiarit­y signals something that we can trust,” said lead author Eryn Newman of the University of California-Irvine. “But informatio­n that is difficult to process signals danger.”

And the phenomenon isn’t confined to people’s names.

“When we encounter new informatio­n, how easy or difficult it is to process plays an important role in all sorts of situations,” said Newman, a post-doctoral fellow in the criminal, law and society school at Irvine.

“For example, research shows people think that food additives with easier names are safer than those with difficult names.”

Daniel Bernstein of Kwantlen, one of the study’s three authors, said the associatio­n between easy-to-pronounce names and trustworth­iness applies even when the two names compared were from the same foreign country.

For example, Andrian Babeshko was more likely to be believed than Czesla Ratynska when people were given a statement to judge such as: “Macadamia nuts are from the same evolutiona­ry family as peaches.”

Bernstein, who teaches psychology, focusing on cognition and memory, said: “In the absence of any other informatio­n, people will use whatever informatio­n is available that they think is relevant. They think pronouncea­bility of the name is helping them, but it’s not.”

The research team, which also included Maryanne Garry from the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, came up with their name pairings through newspaper articles and websites from Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

In one test example, participan­ts were asked to pretend they were tourists and shown two names from the same region, then asked who would make the safer and more reliable guide.

The authors acknowledg­ed the study builds upon previous findings, but said it found the consequenc­es of easy-to-say names are more significan­t than previously thought.


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada