Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Help for names’ sakes

15.01.2002


We’re more likely to help people with the same name as us.
© Photodisc


Shared names prompt good deeds.

When seeking help from a stranger, ask someone who shares your name: people are more likely to assist a namesake, an e-mail study has revealed1.

A shared name indicates two people are likely to share genes, so evolution may have taught us to be nice to our namesakes, suggests psychologist Margo Wilson who carried out the study at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.



Unusual names are particularly good at eliciting help from others with the same moniker. Which makes sense: the less common a name, the more likely it is that two people sharing it are blood relations.

Help’s at handle

The US census records 88,217 surnames, 4,275 female names and 1,219 male names, ranked in order of commonness from Mary to Willodean and James to Broderick.

Wilson and her colleague Kirsten Oates took some names from the top of the charts, such as Jones, Smith, Gary and Nancy and some from between positions 100 and 300, including Andrews, Morrison, and the first names Dwayne and Tracey.

The duo set up e-mail accounts for 223 fictitious people bearing all permutations of common and uncommon names. They then posed as a student seeking information on sports team mascots, and sent out nearly 3,000 requests to strangers sharing either one, both or no names, asking for information on their local mascots.

About 12% of those sharing both names responded, compared with less than 2% of people sharing none. A shared first name or surname got a smaller response, but was better than nothing.

"When both names were shared, some people showed a great deal of excitement," says Wilson. The phantom namesakes received requests for more information about themselves, and their addresses.

Name dropping

These results are just what you’d expect, says Christopher Badcock, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics. "A surname goes down the generations by the same route as the person’s genes," Badcock says.

Women were the most diligent respondents. This sex bias is "baffling", comments ecologist Ben Hatchwell, of the University of Sheffield. Surnames pass down the male line, so you’d expect a name to be a much better guide to a man’s ancestry than a woman’s.

The precise relationship between shared names and genes is still unclear, Hatchwell adds. He also speculates that fashions in first names - such as the spate of Leo’s in Britain, following the birth of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s son - may influence the results.

Previous studies in North America showed that women tend to be families’ ’kin keepers’. They are better at staying in touch with distant relatives, and have a better knowledge of who’s related to whom, although this varies across cultures. Women also seem to be better at social contact in general.

References

  1. Oates, K. & Wilson, M. Nominal kinship cues facilitate altruism. Proceeding of the Royal Society B, DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2001.1862, (2002).


JOHN WHITFIELD | © Nature News Service

More articles from Interdisciplinary Research:

nachricht Scientists develop machine-learning method to predict the behavior of molecules
11.10.2017 | New York University

nachricht A new method for the 3-D printing of living tissues
16.08.2017 | University of Oxford

All articles from Interdisciplinary Research >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Osaka university researchers make the slipperiest surfaces adhesive

18.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

Space radiation won't stop NASA's human exploration

18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Los Alamos researchers and supercomputers help interpret the latest LIGO findings

18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>