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People Look Like Their Names, Study Suggests

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People are who their names are, researchers say, meaning a person’s face can actually resemble his or her name.

In a unique study, a research team at Hebrew University of Jerusalem wanted to find out if a person’s name, and subsequent social expectations, can actually have an effect on facial appearance. They began by looking at the relationship between a person’s face and their name, Live Science reports.

The team asked 185 participants from France and Israel to look at photos of people’s faces and guess their names correctly from a list of four possible answers. Respondents guess the correct name 38% of the time – higher than the 25% chances of getting one out of four.

Accordingly, it turned out that French participants could identify a Veronique correctly nearly 80% of the time, while Israeli participants matched a Tom more than 52% of the time.

Even when the researchers factored in age and ethnicity, the results held. Ruth Mayo, one of the researchers, says,

Our research demonstrates that indeed people do look like their name.

She adds, “Furthermore, we suggest this happens because of a process of self-fulfilling prophecy, as we become what other people expect us to become.”

Study participant were also able to guess the person’s name based only on an image showing their hairstyle, beating the odds, the study states.

The researchers also came up with a computer algorithm, designed by scientists at the same university, which was able to correctly match name to face. Previous studies have already shown that gender and racial stereotypes have an effect on a person’s appearance.

Mayo says, “A name is an external social factor, different from other social factors such as gender or ethnicity, therefore representing an ultimate social tag.” She further explains, “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.”

The study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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