New research has revealed that the vowel sounds in your name could influence how others judge the attractiveness of your face.
Amy Perfors, a cognitive scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who carried out the study, believes the effect is subconscious. Observers unwittingly deem others better looking if they have the right moniker, she says.
Perfors made the discovery by posting pictures of 24 friends on hotornot.com, a website that allows users to award marks out of ten for others’ attractiveness. Names are not usually displayed with the pictures, but for her experiment Perfors made sure that a name (not necessarily a truthful one) was displayed in the photo’s upper corner.
She later posted the same photographs with different names, and once again collected the feedback. Average scores for the faces changed depending on the name they were given, Perfors told the annual meeting of the Cognitive Science Society last week in Chicago, Illinois.
OK, so what works?
…what are the ingredients of a sexy name? For boys, a good name will contain vowel sounds made at the front of the mouth, such as ‘e’ or ‘i’ sounds [TC: hey, I think “y” counts…]; names with fuller, rounder vowel sounds such as ‘u’ tend to score lower. So pat yourself on the back if you’re called Ben… but if your name is Paul you might have to work harder to snare a date.
The opposite is true for girls, Perfors found. Women with round-sounding names such as Laura tended to score higher than those with smaller vowel sounds. “Unfortunately for me, Amy is one of the bad names,” Perfors laments.
The finding that men with ‘small-sounding’ names are attractive might seem counterintuitive, Perfors admits. “Front-mouth vowels imply smallness,” she says. “But when girls are looking for mates, they don’t necessarily want a super testosterone-charged guy. They want someone who will hang around and be a provider.”