Name-letter effect

Name letter effect

The name letter effect is the hypothesis that the probability of certain actions can be influenced by the first letter of the name of the person performing the action. For example, that Bill is more likely to move to Buffalo than a city that does not begin with a "B". The effect reported in various psychological studies is small but according to the authors not explained by random chance. The statistical validity of some studies of the phenomenon is disputed.

The name-letter effect was first reported in 1985.


The effect has been proposed to extend to:

  • Choice of living location (city, state)
  • Choice of spouse (e.g. Omar being more likely to marry Ophelia than Patricia)
  • Choice of brand
  • Choice of occupation (e.g. a disproportionate number of dentists named Dennis)
  • Academic performance in systems that use letter grades (e.g. for Academic grading in North America, students with names beginning with "A" tend to do better than students with names beginning with "D". Studied for MBAs, law students, and undergraduates.)
  • Sports performance (e.g. people with names beginning with "K" being more likely to strike out)

The effect was tested for but not observed when choosing among:

  • Types of food
  • Species of animal
  • Leisure activities
  • National groups


While the effect is argued by one group of researchers to arise from "implicit egotism", it does not correlate with personality characteristics such as self-esteem or narcissism.

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.

Birthdays and numbers

The birthday-number effect is a similar bias hypothesized for birthdays and numbers. For example, for a city with a number in the name, people with that number in the day or month of their birthday are more likely to live there than others.


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