Name letter effect

Name letter effect

The name letter effect is one of the widest used measures of implicit self esteem. It represents the idea that an individual prefers the letters belonging to their own name and will select these above other letters in choice tasks.

This effect has been found in a vast range of studies. In one such scenario, participants were given a list of letters, one of which contained letters from their own name and the other of which contained other letters, and asked them to circle the preferred letter. This study found that, even when accounting for all other variables, letters belonging to the participants' own names were preferred.[1]

Similar results have been found in cross-cultural studies, using different alphabets.[2]

The name letter effect differs from "implicit egotism",[3] the latter being attributed to the way people allegedly gravitate towards places, people and situations that reflect themselves, including perhaps similarities with their own name.



The effect is argued by some researchers to arise from "implicit egotism"[3][4]: Because people tend to hold a positive self-regard, they tend to like what is associated with themselves. The fact that the name letter effect correlates only weakly with questionnaire measures of self-esteem[5] is consistent with the view that these measures assess different components of self-esteem and predict different behaviors[6].

The effect is hypothesized to result not just from writing one's own name repeatedly, because the effect is observed for Latin alphabet letters in people who write their names in the Cyrillic alphabet.[7]

Birthdays and numbers

The birthday-number effect is a similar bias hypothesized for birthdays and numbers.[8]


Its implications for major life decisions are controversial. If people have a preference for the letters of their name, do they also prefer jobs, cities, and relationship partners with similar names? Whereas some studies have suggested that this might be the case, other researchers have pointed out that these effects are nothing other than statistical artifacts.[9][10][11][12][13]


  1. ^ Nuttin, J.M. (1985). Narcissism beyond Gestalt and awareness: The name letter effect. European Journal of Social Psychology, 15(3), 353–361.
  2. ^ Hoorens, V., Nuttin, J.M., Herman, I.E., & Pavakanun, U. (1990). Mastery pleasure versus mere ownership: A quasi-experimental cross-cultural and cross alphabetical test of the name letter effect. European Journal of Social Psychology, 20(3), 181–205.
  3. ^ a b Pelham, B.W., Carvallo, M., & Jones, J.T. (2005). Implicit egoism. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14(2), 106–110.
  4. ^ Pelham, B.W., Mirenberg, M.C., & Jones, J.T. (2002). Why Susie sells seashells by the seashore: Implicit egotism and major life decisions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82(4), 469–487. PDF
  5. ^ Krizan, Z., & Suls, J. (2008). Are implicit and explicit measures of self-esteem related? A meta-analysis for the Name-Letter Test. Personality and Individual Differences, 44(2), 521-531. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2007.09.017
  6. ^ Asendorpf, J. B., Banse, R., & Mucke, D. (2002). Double dissociation between implicit and explicit personality self-concept: The case of shy behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(2), 380-393.
  7. ^ The name letter effect: Attachment to self or primacy of own name writing? by Vera Hoorens and Elka Todorova. European Journal of Social Psychology. Volume 18, Issue 4, Pages 365–368. March 1988.
  8. ^ Name Letter Preferences Are Not Merely Mere Exposure: Implicit Egotism as Self-Regulation. Jones, Pelham, Mirenberg and Hetts. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology Volume 38, Issue 2, March 2002, Pages 170–177.
  9. ^ Simonsohn, Uri (July 2011). "Spurious? Name similarity effects (implicit egotism) in marriage, job, and moving decisions". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 101 (1): 1–24. doi:10.1037/a0021990. Retrieved 6 July 2011. 
  10. ^ Gallucci, M. (2003). I sell seashells by the seashore and my name is Jack: Comment on Pelham, Mirenberg, and Jones (2002). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85(5), 789-799.
  11. ^ Pelham, B.W., Carvallo, M., DeHart, T., Jones, J.T. (2003). Assessing the validity of implicit egotism: A reply to Gallucci (2003). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85(5), 800-807.
  12. ^ McCullough. Baseball players with the initial “K” do not strike out more often. - Journal of Applied Statistics, 2010
  13. ^ Yamaguchi. Baseball managers, no need to worry about players' initials: Comment on Nelson and Simmons. - International Journal of Sport Psychology 2010

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