Vol. 72 No. 2 (2024): NAMES: A Journal of Onomastics

The Negative Effect of Ambiguous First Names in Online Mate Selection: Evidence from a Survey Experiment in Japan

Kazuya Ogawa
Graduate School of Arts and Letters, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan
Hiroki Takikawa
Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan

Published 2024-06-06


  • first name,
  • naming,
  • social class,
  • social disparities,
  • online mate selection,
  • Japan
  • ...More


Research has shown that some first names can be disadvantageous on the marriage market. However, the precise mechanisms whereby names influence mate selection behaviour remain unknown. This study attempted to address this gap. More specifically, this investigation examined Japanese women’s preferences for male partners with common male names with clear readings as compared to male partners with names with unclear or “ambiguous” readings. This investigation had two guiding hypotheses: (1) Japanese women have a lower preference for ambiguous male names; (2) the lower degree of preference for ambiguous male names was attributable to Japanese women assuming that the names were indicative of a low social class. To test these hypotheses, we conducted a conjoint experiment of 1,261 single Japanese women aged 25 to 34 years in a fictitious online mate selection setting. Participants were provided with fourteen randomly generated profiles of potential marital partners and were asked to decide whether to prefer them or not. It was found that the female participants preferred profiles with common male names over profiles with ambiguous male names in an online mate selection setting, with a significant effect size of 7 percentage points.  This finding supported hypothesis 1. However, no evidence was found for hypothesis 2.


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