A Rose by Any Other Name

Want a Successful Baby? Give Her a Middle Initial, Says Science

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Melissa Jones is an average baby. Melissa T. Jones, though? That baby is a genius. Or at least, other people will think so. And really, isn’t that what matters?

According to a new study, people with middle initials are seen as smarter than people without them, a finding researchers managed to replicate over and over. When subjects were asked to evaluate a short article, they liked the one by David F. Clark better than the (identical) one by David Clark, but not as well as the (also identical) one by David F.P.R. Clark. When they were asked to imagine joining fictional quiz bowl teams (fun!), they wanted to join the ones where more fictional members had middle initials.

That’s because “the display of middle initials increases the perceived social status of these people, and positively biases inferences about their intellectual capacity and performance,” researchers Wijnand A.P. Van Tilburg and Eric R. Igou write in the European Journal of Social Psychology. And obviously, they would know. If I’m trusting anyone about this, it’s Wijnand A.P. Van Tilburg and Eric R. Igou.

Middle initials signal status, they explain — high-status professionals tend to use middle initials in formal settings, which means they’ve become associated with people who command a lot of cultural respect. It’s also possible, they suggest, tactfully, that “social groups with habits of giving their children more middle names have overall more resources available for education.” (Also, more overall resources available for yachts.)

So if you want to give your kid a leg up in life, start with a few extra names. One does the trick, researchers say, but two or three are also fine. This is also a great opportunity to honor relatives and compromise with your spouse if the naming process has been contentious. Everybody wins! Especially your baby. All the kids are totally going to want to be on her quiz bowl team.

[h/t Pacific Standard]