Vol. 59 No. 1 (2011)
Research Article

Mr "Py" is Probably a Good Mathematician: An Experimental Study of the Subjective Attractiveness of Family Names

Published 2011-03-01


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Research suggests that surnames are associated with connotations such as ethnicity, liking, familiarity … In this experiment we tested the effect of a symbolic connation associated with a surname. Several ads offering private math lessons for pupils were published in various local French newspapers. The surname of the professor in mathematics who offered his help was manipulated according to the experimental conditions: Mr Py a surname that sounds like the famous mathematical constant (Pi) was compared with Mr Rie a name with the same frequency and vowel sound but who was not associated with any symbol or professional connotation, and Mr Le Gal the most frequent surname in the geographic area where the experiment was conducted. It was found that the ad published by Mr Py received more phone contacts than when the same ad was published with the two other surnames. Results provide some support that symbolic connotations associated with surname and a professional function has implications on people's behavior toward their owner.


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