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The “name game”: affective and hiring reactions to first names

John L. Cotton (Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA)
Bonnie S. O'Neill (Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA)
Andrea Griffin (Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 18 January 2008




The paper seeks to examine how the uniqueness and ethnicity of first names influence affective reactions to those names and their potential for hire.


In study 1, respondents evaluated 48 names in terms of uniqueness and likeability, allowing us to select names viewed consistently as Common, Russian, African‐American, and Unusual. In Study 2 respondents assessed the uniqueness and likeability of the names, and whether they would hire someone with the name.


Results indicated that Common names were seen as least unique, best liked, and most likely to be hired. Unusual names were seen as most unique, least liked, and least likely to be hired. Russian and African‐American names were intermediate in terms of uniqueness, likeability and being hired, significantly different from Common and Unique names, but not significantly different from each other.

Research limitations/implications

The name an individual carries has a significant impact on how he or she is viewed, and conceivably, whether or not the individual is hired for a job.

Practical implications

Human resource professionals need to be aware that there seems to be a clear bias in how people perceive names. When resumés are screened for hiring, names should be left off. Our findings also suggest that when selecting, parents may want to reconsider choosing something distinctive.


This study offers original findings in regards to names, combining diverse research from social psychology and labor economics, and offering practical implications.



Cotton, J.L., O'Neill, B.S. and Griffin, A. (2008), "The “name game”: affective and hiring reactions to first names", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 23 No. 1, pp. 18-39.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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