The way your name sounds can have surprising effects.

There are a lot of very subtle sounds that influence our initial judgments based on a name or word.

Video afspelen

The way a name or word sounds can have some surprising effects on the judgments we make.

A growing body of research suggests that people can have their perception of someone or something influenced by the sound of a word or name.

Cognitive psychologist David Sidhu at University College London and psycholinguist Penny Pexman at the University of Calgary have found that people perceive certain personal names such as Bob and Molly as round, and others such as Kirk and Kate as spiky.

Other studies found that participants pictured people with a “spiky” name as having a more spiky personality. People with round-sounding names were judged to be less “spiky” and more “round” in terms of personality.

But what is meant by “round” and “spiky”? 

Round-sounding names are smooth and soft-sounding. They get associated with things like being more agreeable, more emotional, and more conscientious.

Spiky-sounding names are harsher-sounding. Examples often include harsh consonants or hissing sounds. “Spiky” names get associated with extraverted personality characteristics.

And there is much more. There are a lot of very subtle sounds that influence our initial judgments based on a name or word. For example, sounds can also indicate size. An i-sound is linked to smallness around the world. 

It’s important to understand that there is no evidence for an actual link between a person’s name and their personality. But research suggests that there is a link between someone’s name and how people make judgments about this person solely based on their name.