Why an attractive name can give any face a lift

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The Independent Online

A person's attractiveness to the opposite sex may partly depend on the sound of his or her name, a researcher said yesterday.

A person's attractiveness to the opposite sex may partly depend on the sound of his or her name, a researcher said yesterday.

For men, it pays to have a name with a "front vowel" sound produced at the front of the mouth, such as the "a" in Matt, Amy Perfors, a linguist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, found. Women rated these names as more attractive than those with a "back vowel" sound such as the "aw" in Paul.

For men the opposite was true: they preferred women with the "aw-type" sound in their names.

The attractiveness of the names was tested by posting photographs on the "Hot or Not?" website, which allows viewers to rank strangers' attractiveness. Each photo was posted at different times with different names attached. While most experts think there is no inherent relationship between the sound of a word and its meaning, Dr Perfors believes there is some evidence to the contrary. Front vowels were often perceived as "smaller" than back vowels.

It may seem counter-intuitive that men with a smaller-sounding front vowel in their name were rated as more attractive, New Scientist magazine reported. But other studies showed that men with slightly feminine features were considered more desirable by women.

"Maybe women are subconsciously looking for more sensitive or gentle men," Dr Perfors said. However, she noted, men with "women's names" were rated least attractive of all.

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