Were more likely to help people with the same name as us.
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.
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.
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.
JOHN WHITFIELD | © Nature News Service
How do muscle and tendon connections last a lifetime? Study in the fruit fly Drosophila
04.04.2019 | Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
The Internet of Things: TU Graz researchers increase the dependability of smart systems
18.02.2019 | Technische Universität Graz
A stellar flare 10 times more powerful than anything seen on our sun has burst from an ultracool star almost the same size as Jupiter
A localization phenomenon boosts the accuracy of solving quantum many-body problems with quantum computers which are otherwise challenging for conventional computers. This brings such digital quantum simulation within reach on quantum devices available today.
Quantum computers promise to solve certain computational problems exponentially faster than any classical machine. “A particularly promising application is the...
The technology could revolutionize how information travels through data centers and artificial intelligence networks
Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley have built a new photonic switch that can control the direction of light passing through optical fibers...
Physicists observe how electron-hole pairs drift apart at ultrafast speed, but still remain strongly bound.
Modern electronics relies on ultrafast charge motion on ever shorter length scales. Physicists from Regensburg and Gothenburg have now succeeded in resolving a...
Engineers create novel optical devices, including a moth eye-inspired omnidirectional microwave antenna
A team of engineers at Tufts University has developed a series of 3D printed metamaterials with unique microwave or optical properties that go beyond what is...
17.04.2019 | Event News
15.04.2019 | Event News
09.04.2019 | Event News
18.04.2019 | Life Sciences
18.04.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
18.04.2019 | Life Sciences