Blame the Name

Psychology: A person named Dennis is more likely to become a dentist, and other surprising findings.

"People feel good about themselves," says psychologist Brett Pelham of the State University of New York at Buffalo, "so they feel good about anything associated with themselves." How else to explain the results of a study on how people's names affect their choices? Pelham and colleagues researched phone directories, the Social Security Death Index, and other archives. Among their findings: A person named George or Geoffrey is 40 percent more likely to become a geologist than the general population. A person named Dennis is more likely to become a dentist. Those born on March 3 (or 3/3) are more likely to live in a town with a name like "Three Thorns"; similarly, those born on June 6 (6/6) are more likely to live in a town with a name like "Six Forks." "Most people would think this sort of thing happens only when you have trouble making a conscious decision," Pelham says. "But actually, much of what you do is subconsciously decided."