« Keeping one's appetite after touring the sausage factory | Main | Update: podcast, reviews, Japanese edition, etc. »


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


There may be an effect due to ethnic group, which has a strong correlation to surname, so there may be something to it.

As to Feakonomics, the 21st century seems to be a period when economists decided that they could answer all questions using economics, but have very little success in understanding economies.


"Contrary to Freakonomics, I do not recommend changing your name to Aaron or Audrey any time soon."

Well, no. For one thing, you'd miss out on all those great sales.

Peter van Mierlo

How can parents select A, B or C _surnames_?


Peter: Good question. If it is proven that your success (say, chance of winning a Nobel Prize) is significantly improved by having an A surname, would you run to the nearest government office to request a name change? According to Freakonomics, citing the journal article linked to from the Slate article, you should. The authors suggested that she might drop the first letter of her surname.


Aren't these all effects of surnames?

In that case, is it at all surprising that people who went through years of school, where they were called upon in name order on the first day of every class from 6-18 years of age, and perhaps even seated that way, would not show some effect of that?

How do the Chinese sort words anyway? (I'll bet that none of these studies took place in China btw.)


@John: I think during the Beijing Olympics, competing countries were arranged in order of the number of strokes in the characters used to represent the countries. Logograph dictionaries are often arranged this way, too, with subsections ordered by radical, which results in primarily semantically organized dictionaries--but not always, as some radicals are phonetic, not semantic, elements. I'm no expert, though; this is just what I remember from high school 20 years ago.


I thought the original article was about LAST names. I also don't believe that anywhere in the article it was stated that people toward the end of the alphabet are automatically miserable people. It should be obvious that a lot of different factors affect one's happiness. I think the only point was supposed to be that it's one interesting little factor that contributes to some people's way of life, not something that was meant to be taken like a law of physics.


John, mkw: I don't think we are in disagreement. It could very well have a statistically significant effect but all that means is if we can find two people who are identical on all other attributes but surnames, there would be a tiny difference in their success/happiness/etc. You just won't find such two people in practice. We also agree that this type of result should be treated lightly. But the researchers beg to differ. In the Nobel prize (economics) and surnames paper, the authors literally suggested that one of them might drop the first letter of her surname to turn it into an A name. This was then endorsed by the Freakonomics blog.

Change My Name

There may be an effect in studying article. In my case, had find hard time in changing my name. I got Emely Jones instead of Emily Jones. Because of this hindrance, it's hard for me to get my passport and I find hard applying in some companies either. Thanks for providing this idea.

kiralık devremülkler

thank you. i love to read this type of information posts. again thank you....

The comments to this entry are closed.

Kaiser Fung. Business analytics and data visualization expert. Author and Speaker.
Visit my website. Follow my Twitter. See my articles at Daily Beast, 538, HBR, Wired.

See my Youtube and Flickr.
Numbers Rule Your World:
Amazon - Barnes&Noble

Amazon - Barnes&Noble


  • only in Big Data

Next Events

Jan: 10 NYPL Data Science Careers Talk, New York, NY

Past Events

Aug: 15 NYPL Analytics Resume Review Workshop, New York, NY

Apr: 2 Data Visualization Seminar, Pasadena, CA

Mar: 30 ASA DataFest, New York, NY

See more here


R Fundamentals, Principal Analytics Prep

Numbersense: Statistical Reasoning in Practice, Principal Analytics Prep

Applied Analytics Frameworks & Methods, Columbia

The Art of Data Visualization, NYU

Signed copies at McNally-Jackson, NYC

Excerpts: Numbersense Ch. 1, 7, 8. NRYW

Junk Charts Blog

Link to junkcharts

Graphics design by Amanda Lee