If you pass by a random stranger today and think that he or she resembles a Tim or a Katherine, chances are you are 40 percent right. Recently, scientists revealed that people have an amazing hidden ability to match complete strangers’ faces with their names on first glance. Researchers have come to believe that this is possible because people subconsciously grow to look more like their name, frowning, gaining weight, changing hairstyles, or smiling more often. For instance, people expect men called Bob to have rounder faces than somebody named Tim, because the word looks round. Also, a woman called Katherine is generally perceived as more successful than Scarlett.
During the trials, people asked to match random strangers’ faces with their names from a list of four or five choices did so better than a computer algorithm that. Hence, after being shown several pictures of strangers together with a list of four or five names for each picture, the participants correctly assigned the given name to the person in the picture 40 percent of the time. In comparison, the computer algorithm designed to assign names randomly did the same with only 20 to 25 percent accuracy. After modifying the algorithm, however, the computer was able to correctly assign the given names to the photographed people with 54 to 64 percent accuracy.
The explanation is quite simple:
“We have cultural ideas about names, based on how they sound, if they have another meaning, the people we have known with that name, and famous people”, said Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Dr. Ruth Mayo, co-author of the study.
She went on to exemplify the phenomenon even further, saying people associate the name Rose with a woman as beautiful as a flower and automatically makes said woman appear more feminine. At the same time, however, somebody called Elizabeth could be perceived as more serious, because of the name’s association with royal figures. Hence, a woman called Elizabeth could subconsciously force herself to smile less, or put her hair up rather than letting it down. As physical consequences, she will have fewer wrinkles and subsequently fewer laughter lines, the researchers noted.
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