Hebrew University Study Finds How Names Influence People's Physical Appearance


Hebrew University researchers found that people were able to guess a person's name just by looking at them. This brought to light the possibility of how social perceptions play a role on facial appearance.

Dr. Ruth Mayo and Yonat Zwebner, a doctoral candidate, published their study in the "Journal of Personality and Social Psychology." They tried to find out if a person's physical appearance can be influenced by their given name, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Their study investigated on the reverse possibility of social perceptions influencing facial appearance. The Hebrew University researchers recruited independent observers and conducted a series of eight studies.

Then, they showed them colored photographs of the faces of strangers. The respondents were given a list of names and were tasked to name the stranger based on his or her facial appearance.

Interestingly, the study participants were able to identify a person's name based on how they looked. In one instance, the respondents were asked to look at a photograph and were given four names to choose from: Jacob, Dan, Josef or Nathaniel.

It was found that observers were able to accurately name "Dan" 38 percent of the time. This is a much higher rate than the 25 percent chance of a random guess. Moreover, the effect persisted even when the Hebrew University researchers controlled for the variables of age and ethnicity.

According to Times of Israel, the respondents were able to correctly guess the person's name even when they were just shown the person's hairstyle. Researchers Mayo and Zwebner, along with Anne-Laure Sellier, Nir Rosenfeld and Jacob Goldenberg also carried out the experiment in France and got similar results.

However, one difference was that French speakers were unable to identify Israeli names just from the faces and vice versa, at a higher rate. This suggested that culture plays a significant role with the connection between one's name and face.

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