`Ugly' names do better at university

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The Independent Online
BEING CALLED Gillian or Amos rather than Stephen or Alison could make the difference between getting a 2:1 and a 2:2 at university, according to a study.

Dr Phil Erwin, of Nene University College, Northampton, has found that people with unattractive or unusual names do "significantly better" at university than those with normal monikers. The downside is that Ethels or Normans can be subject to teasing for years and may "crumble" under the ridicule.

In his study, Dr Erwin looked at examinations and coursework marks for students who had completed the second year of a psychology degree at a British university as well as rating the attractiveness of their names. He said old-fashioned names such as Harold, Norman, Amos, Gillian, Ethel and Pauline were seen as unattractive whereas the more modern Stephen, David, Lucy, Alison and Emma are marked out as attractive.

On average those with names rated as "unattractive" scored at least 3 per cent more. "It may not sound much but in degree classifications it can make the difference between a good and an average degree," said Dr Erwin. "It can make the difference between a 2:1 and a 2:2 or even a 2:1 and a first."

He said the names he looked at were more old fashioned than unusual, and so the effect could be even more marked for someone with a truly outlandish name. "When people have a name that is unattractive it makes you stand out," said Dr Erwin. "It focuses attention on you and people either crumble or do extremely well."

Children who have such names may often have to endure playground teasing and if they survive that they have worked out a survival mechanism for life. "Children are merciless about differences and if you are called Norman you are going to be at the receiving end of a lot of ribbing," said Dr Erwin. "It either toughens you up or you become miserable."

He added: "If you are asked out on a blind date with someone called Norman or Ethel or Stephen or Alison, you would be more likely to accept with the latter names."

The advantage of an unattractive name might also help in the job market, drawing you to the attention of an employer.

However, Dr Erwin said he would not advise parents to saddle their child with an unattractive name in the hopes of them becoming an academic achiever. "Fashions in names do change," he said. "The best thing is to give them two names and then they can decide which one they want to use."