Include a middle initial

There is a current trend to pick, analyze, and tear apart baby names. A popular gossip website even has a resident “expert” doling out her opinions on baby names. Choose a strong name. Choose a name that goes well with the last name. Choose a name that evokes a judge, not a stripper. After all, the kid will become the name. Name her “Alexandra,” and she’ll become a high-powered lawyer, who takes her career to the next level in American politics. Blah.

This is a frightening trend. So, I’m not sure about adding fuel to the fire. Yet I may be with this research.  But we’re going beyond the first name to the middle name. Well, we’re going even further than that – wait for it – to the middle initial.

A new study1 indicates that people think an individual with a middle-initial is smarter, more accomplished than an individual without one. The middle-initial effect is only evident when judging an individual in a domain in which intellectual performance is primary (e.g., Quiz Team) as opposed to secondary (e.g., Sports Group).

Now, let’s do a thought experiment.

You get two pieces of work to read. They’re the same except for the author’s name:

One has “David Clark.”

The other has “David F. Clark”

Who do you think is smarter?

The F.?

Yes, me too.





1 Van Tilburg, W. A. P., & Igou, E. R. (2014). The impact of middle names: Middle name initials enhance evaluations of intellectual performance. European Journal of Social Psychology, 44(4), 400-411.

Picture Attribution

Hello My Name Is” by Robert Occhialini