Copyright (c) 2013 American Name Society 2013
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Many parents in the United States devote a great deal of attention to selecting their children’s names. To better understand this process, 532 potential parents in the United States rated their liking and perceptions of infant names. Liking was related to characteristics of the names (such as popularity, defined as how frequently the names had been previously selected by parents) and to characteristics of the raters (such as their personality traits and gender). Ratings of the physical and behavioral traits of infants depicted through both a name and a photograph were related more strongly to ratings of the photograph alone than the name alone. These results suggest that parent preferences for certain names may account for changes in name popularity over time, and also suggest that the influence of names on adults’ perceptions of infants may be superseded by the influence of the infants’ physical appearance.
- Alter, Alexandra. June 22, 2007. “The Baby Name Business.” Wall Street Journal. Available at: (Accessed May 3, 2010).
- Barnes, Michael L. and Robert Rosenthal. 1985. “Interpersonal Effects of Experimenter Attractiveness, Attire, and Gender.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 48: 435–446.
- Barry, Herbert III and Aylene S. Harper. 2010. “Racial and Gender Differences in Diversity of First Names.” Names 58: 47–54.
- Bruning, James L., Natalie K. Polinko, and Justin T. Buckingham. 1998. “Connotative Meanings of Names and Nicknames: Changes Over Twenty-Seven Years.” Psychological Reports 83: 427–430.
- Buchanan, Barbara A. and James L. Bruning. 1971. “Connotative Meanings of First Names and Nicknames on Three Dimensions.” The Journal of Social Psychology 85: 143–144.
- Ellington, Jane E. 2001. “College Students’ Given Names: A Test of the Preference-Feedback Hypothesis.” Journal of Applied Social Psychology 31: 157–169.
- Erwin, Phillip G. 1995. “A Review of the Effects of Personal Name Stereotypes.” Representative Research in Social Psychology 20: 41–52.
- Evans, Cleveland K. 2008. “A Note on US Immigrants’ Choice of Baby Names.” Names 56: 39–40.
- Hildebrandt, Katherine A. and Hiram E. Fitzgerald. 1979. “Adults’ Perceptions of Infant Sex and Cuteness.” Sex Roles 5: 471–481.
- John, Oliver P., Eileen M. Donahue, and Robert L. Kentle. 1991. The Big Five Inventory-Versions 4a and 54. Berkeley, CA: University of California, Berkeley, Institute of Personality and Social Research.
- Joubert, Charles E. 1985. “Sex Differences in Given Name Preferences.” Psychological Reports 57: 49–50.
- Joubert, Charles E. 1993. “Person Names as a Psychological Variable.” Psychological Reports 73: 1123–1145.
- Joubert, Charles E. 1994. “Relation of Name Frequency to the Perception of Social Class in Given Names.” Perceptual and Motor Skills 79: 623–626.
- Langlois, Judith H., Lisa Kalakanis, Adam J. Rubenstein, Andrea Larson, Monica Hallam, and Monica Smoot. 2000. “Maxims or Myths of Beauty? A Meta-Analytic and Theoretical Review.” Psychological Bulletin 126: 390–423, doi: 10·1037/0033-2909·126·3·390.
- Lea, Melissa. A., Robin D. Thomas, Nathan A. Lamkin, and Aaron Bell. 2007. “Who Do You Look Like? Evidence of Facial Stereotypes for Male Names.” Psychological Bulletin and Review 14: 901–907.
- Lieberson, Stanley and Freda B. Lynn. 2003. “Popularity as a Taste: An Application to the Naming Process.” Onoma 38: 235–276.
- McCain, Diana R. April 1989. “What to Name the Baby.” Life in Early America: 11–12.
- Nelson, Leif D. and Joseph P. Simmons. 2007. “Moniker Maladies: When Names Sabotage Success.” Psychological Science 18: 1106–1112.
- Otta, Emma. 1997. “Assigning a Name to a Child: Gender Differences in Two Overlapping Generations.” Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied 131: 133–142.
- Perl, Paul and Jonathon L. Wiggins. 2004. “Don’t Call Me Ishmael: Religious Naming Among Protestants and Catholics in the United States.” Journal for Scientific Study of Religion 43: 209–228.
- Smith, Claude. J. Jr. 2009. “Tamenicia or Tammy; James or Jim Bob; Bessie or Heather: Patterns and Significance of Choosing Names for American Babies.” Studies in Popular Culture 31: 123–134.
- Stern, Marilyn and Katherine H. Karraker. 1986. “Stern-Karraker Infant Stereotyping Scale.” [online]. Abstract from: CDP File: HaPI-CD: Health and Psychosocial Instruments, HaPI.
- Stern, Marilyn, Katherine Karraker, Bonnie McIntosh, Sara Moritzen, and Michelle Olexa. 2006. “Prematurity Stereotyping and Mothers’ Interactions with Their Premature and Full-Term Infants During the First Year.” Journal of Pediatric Psychology 31: 597–607.
- Tucker, Kenneth D. 2009. “Increased Competition and Reduced Popularity: US Given Name Trends of the Twentieth and Early Twenty-First Centuries.” Names 57: 52–62.
- Twenge, Jean M., Emodish M. Abebe, and W. Keith Campbell. 2010. “Fitting In or Standing Out: Trends in American Parents’ Choices for Children’s Names, 1880–2007.” Social Psychological and Personality Science 1: 19–25.
- Varnum, Michael E. W. and Shinobu Kitayama. 2011. “What’s in a Name? Popular Names are Less Common on Frontiers.” Psychological Science 22: 176–183, doi: 10·1177/0956797610395396.