Do You Look Like Your Name? Probably.

Our editors delve into Curiosity's top stories every day on a podcast that's shorter than your commute. Click here to listen and learn — in just a few minutes!

You were born with an identity crisis. Your parents named you Brooke, but apparently you "don't look like a Brooke." Instead, most people agree that you fit your middle name, Ann. So, Ann it is. But why? According to a February 2017 study, there's a reason why we attribute certain traits to certain names. And, to take it a step further, a person's name might even influence their facial appearance. Whoa.

Related: What Does Your Name Say About You?

Why we're covering this:

  • Because you've always told your friend Nicole that she looks just like a Nicole, and now there's science to back you up.
  • It's cool to think that names take on a social meaning... and they might even shape your face

What's In A Name? A Lot.

In one of the study's experiments, researchers focused on name stereotypes and showed participants a stranger's face with a choice of five names (Jacob, Dan, Josef, Nathaniel). The subjects were able to correctly identify the man as "Dan" about 38 percent of the time, which is above the 25 percent level of chance. The researchers claim that Dan's name is the ultimate social tag because it's an external social factor (chosen, not innate), unlike gender or ethnicity.

Related: The Name-Letter Effect Makes You Prefer The Letters In Your Own Name

The research team ran several more experiments with different conditions, and the results were consistent. How? More research needs to be done, but Cathy Mondloch, a psychologist at Brock University in Canada, has a reasonable hypotheses: names are often culturally specific. NPR gives a good example: "you might quickly cross out the name Angus for an Asian guy." Fair enough.


However, the scientists also created a computer algorithm to search for similarities between thousands of people with the same name. As it turns out, people who share the same name have similar facial features. With this data, the computer correctly matched names to faces about 60 percent of the time. How do you explain that?

Related: If Your Mom Calls You Your Sibling's Name, Don't Worry. It Means She Loves You Both

According to the study, these findings might have an even greater implication: "The demonstration of our name being manifested in our facial appearance illustrates the great power that a social factor can have on our identity, potentially influencing even the way we look." Not only do our faces affect people's social perceptions (like whether or not you look like a Dan), but our names might also be shaping our faces. So before you start choosing baby names, it might be worth some research.

Is there something you're curious about? Send us a note or email us at editors (at) And follow Curiosity on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Watch And Learn: Our Favorite Content About Names

What Does Your Name Say About You?

Share the knowledge!

Key Facts In This Video

  1. A study found a correlation between boys with traditionally girls' names had more difficulties in school. 00:46

  2. Peoples' names are linked to social status and other societal aspirations. 01:46

  3. Names can have a psychological affect on one's self-perception and overall mental health. 02:08

Did You Choose Your Job Based On Your Name?

Share the knowledge!

Key Facts In This Video

  1. One study found that job applicants with equal qualifications were more likely to be hired if they had "white-sounding" names. 00:55

  2. People appear more likely to choose careers with labels that resemble their own name. 02:18

  3. Researchers theorize that nominative determinism happens because people prefer things that they can relate to themselves. 02:35

Written by Curiosity Staff March 17, 2017

Curiosity uses cookies to improve site performance, for analytics and for advertising. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies, our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.