David Burchett Christian Blog and Commentary

What's In A Name?

There is nothing more self-affirming than a good round of feeling stupid. Jeopardy usually fulfills that need for me.

“I’ll take categories I don’t have a clue about for $50, Alex.”

Today I picked up the Metro section of the local paper and saw a little feature called “Good Kid”. Every week they highlight (not surprisingly) a good kid from the community and ask them about their likes, hobbies, etc. Today the good kid was a young man from Rowlett, Texas named Marcus Pyle. He is a good looking young man and obviously gifted. His favorite subject is epistemology. Not that any of my regular readers don’t know this, but epistemology is the theory of knowledge. My favorite subject was wood shop and I still plan to finish that end table. Marcus’s resume at seventeen is better than my current one. But what made me feel stupid was his answer to this statement.

The people I'd most like to meet are: Jacqueline du Pré and Dmitri Shostakovich

Uhhhhhhh. These are the two people he would most like to meet in the world and I have any idea who they are. At seventeen I would have said I would have most liked to meet Raquel Welch (based on her poster from One Million B.C.) and The Monkees from TV. What an intellectual fest that would have been.

If you are feeling as stupid as me then I will help you out. Jacqueline du Pré was generally acknowledged as one of the greatest cellist performers ever. Dmitri Shostakovich was a Soviet composer. Both are now dead. At least my people were alive.

So I was feeling a little intimidated by young Mr. Pyle when I came across a story that made me realize that my lack of intellectual depth, like everything that happens to you in this country, was not my fault. According to a new study released by a group of scholars with not enough to do, your name can determine your academic prowess. USA Today reported the breakthrough study.

Psychologists in marketing at Yale and the University of California, San Diego studying the unconscious influence of names say a preference for our own names and initials — the "name-letter effect" — can have some negative consequences.

Students whose names begin with C or D get lower grades than those whose names begin with A or B; major league baseball players whose first or last names began with K (the strikeout-signifying letter) are significantly more likely to strike out, according to the report published in the December issue of Psychological Science.

"We found that our own-name liking sabotages success for people whose initials match negative performance labels," the report says.

Ah-hah! Because my name starts with a “D” I never had a chance to be a great student. I was predisposed to get poor grades. If my parents had named me Albert I would be doing the meaningless studies at Yale today.

Assistant professors Leif Nelson of UCSD and Joseph Simmons of Yale conducted five studies over five years (including one lab experiment) using information from thousands of individuals: 6,398 baseball players (377 had K as either a first or last initial); 15,000 MBA students; 294 undergraduate students; 170 law schools with more than 390,000 lawyers; and 284 participants in their laboratory experiment.

The twist, Pelham says, is that he has believed the name-letter effect would apply only to positive outcomes. Nelson and Simmons, he says, are "showing it applies more so to negative things than positive things." 

So there you have it. It was not my fault that my initial showed up on my report card several times during an uninspired high school career. My name conspired against me. But I have added a pretty cool title to beef up my resume concerns that I mentioned earlier.

Dave Burchett – Child of God. 

And it doesn’t matter what your given name happens to be. You can have the same designation.

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.  (John 1, NIV)

Child of God. I have to admit it. I like the ring of that name.

Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church. You can reply by linking through daveburchett.com.


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