A new standard way to measure the threshold of personal tragedy

Some skilled psychologists see big consequences aborning in seemingly trivial things. Here’s an example.

This particular seemingly trivial thing happens — or doesn’t happen — at online dating sites. The researchers describe it in a quick phrase: “as indicated by fewer first visits to their dating profiles“.

This is big:  a newly-recognized threshold for assessing personal tragedy. Yet, the researchers who devised it did so modestly — they did not call special attention to it. They simply used it as the crux of their new study:

Unfortunate First Names: Effects of Name-Based Relational Devaluation and Interpersonal Neglect,”  Jochen E. Gebauer [pictured here], Mark R. Leary and Wiebke Neberich, Social Psychological and Personality Science, epub December 22, 2011. The study says [though it does not highlight the important phrases, as we do here]:

“Can negative first names cause interpersonal neglect? Study 1  compared extremely negatively named online-daters with extremely positively named online-daters. Study 2 compared less extreme groups—namely, online-daters with somewhat unattractive versus somewhat attractive first names. Study 3  compared online-daters with currently popular versus currently less popular first names, while controlling for name-popularity at birth. Across all studies, negatively named individuals were more neglected by other online-daters, as indicated by fewer first visits to their dating profiles.”

The researchers then explain the implications:

“This form of neglect arguably mirrors a name-based life history of neglect, discrimination, prejudice, or even ostracism. Supporting this argument, neglect mediated the relation between negative names and lower self-esteem, more frequent smoking, and less education. These results are consistent with the name-based interpersonal neglect hypothesis: Negative names evoke negative interpersonal reactions, which in turn influence people’s life outcomes for the worse.”

(Thanks to investigator Scott Langill for bringing this to our attention.)

BONUS: Study co-author Wiebke Neberich [pictured here, in a photo on the eDarling site] is the new spokesperson for the online dating site eDarling.

BONUS: The New York Daily News celebrates the implications of the study, in a newspaper article called “Badly chosen baby names can lead to low self-esteem, low education and more smoking: study“.

BONUS: Read more about Wiebke Neberich’s research for eDarling in this report in Best Dentists: “Single smokers have increased sexual desire