The last name effect  FEB 02 2011

People whose surnames begin with the first few letters of the alphabet (A-I) seem to react differently to certain situations than those whose surnames begin with the letters at the end of the alphabet (R-Z). Slate reports.

E-mails were sent out to adults offering them $500 to participate in a survey. Average response time was between six and seven hours. The same negative correlation between response time and alphabetic rank was observed, but only when the researchers looked at the names the respondents were born with. When Carlson and Conard looked at married names or names changed for some other reason, the correlation dwindled to insignificance. This, they conclude, demonstrates that the "last name effect" derives from "a childhood response tendency." Only people who grew up with a name at the back of the alphabet demonstrated truly Pavlovian responses to the $500 offer.

See also the birth-month soccer anomaly.

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