People have a preference for names and faces that go together, new research finds.
Names that have a round sound, that require rounding of the mouth, like “Lou”, go better with round faces.
Angular sounding names, like “Peter”, though, go better with more angular faces.
The psychologists tested this by having people look at pairs of names and faces.
Sometimes the names matched the face (round name, round face) and sometimes not (round name, angular face).
They found that people prefer it when name and face matches.
The researchers then took it one stage further.
Perhaps people would be more likely to vote for political candidates whose names matched their faces?
Mr David Barton, the study’s first author, explained the results:
“Those with congruent names earned a greater proportion of votes than those with incongruent names.
The fact that candidates with extremely well-fitting names won their seats by a larger margin — 10 points — than is obtained in most American presidential races suggests the provocative idea that the relation between perceptual and bodily experience could be a potent source of bias in some circumstances.”
The “bouba/kiki effect”
The finding is an extension of what psychologists call the “bouba/kiki effect”
To demonstrate this, people are shown the following images and asked which one might be called “bouba” and which one “kiki”.
Over 95% of people call the image on the left “kiki” and the image on the right “bouba”.
Spiky name goes with spiky object and smooth name goes with smooth object.
It’s not just English speakers that do this either, one study found Tamil speakers in India did the same.
Professor Jamin Halberstadt, who co-authored the study, said:
“Overall, our results tell a consistent story.
People’s names, like shape names, are not entirely arbitrary labels.
Face shapes produce expectations about the names that should denote them, and violations of those expectations carry affective implications, which in turn feed into more complex social judgments, including voting decisions.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review (Barton & Halberstadt, 2017).