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May 22, 2007 11:37 AM   Subscribe

"He looks like a Bob." True? Apparently so. Researchers at Miami University have shown quantitatively that certain names are associated with certain facial features. Here's their press release; an article on their research will be published in the Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. (Of further interest: the bouba/kiki effect)
posted by Melinika (81 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Fact: All (American) women look like either Kates or Alices.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:51 AM on May 22, 2007


Fact: You guys keep messing with people named Bob and we're gonna beat your skinny butts silly with our "round faces".

I don't think I meant that the way it sounds...

I hate this article
posted by HuronBob at 11:54 AM on May 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Which person would be inclined to call Bob, and which Tim?

I think the person that would be inclined to call Bob would be the guy that knows Bob's phone number. The guy on the left looks like he might know it. I think his name is Tim.
posted by Oddly at 11:54 AM on May 22, 2007 [4 favorites]


Fact: All (American) women look like either Kates or Alices.

What about Allyces?
posted by dreamsign at 11:55 AM on May 22, 2007


I look like an Alvy, but I make love like a Ricardo, or maybe even a Juan, if I eat my wheaties.

Cool article!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:56 AM on May 22, 2007


Yeah okay. So true fact about me... my real first name is Wilda*, after a dead grandmother. I sure as hell don't look like a Wilda. Then again, I've never met another one so I'm not sure what we are supposed to look like... apparently they look mostly dead. (According to that link, all other Wildas ceased to exist in 1930 or so.)

*If you were called Wildabeest as a child, you'd go by your middle name too.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:58 AM on May 22, 2007 [6 favorites]


He looks like a Tuttle Buttle. Reparations are forthcoming.
posted by Operation Afterglow at 11:59 AM on May 22, 2007 [3 favorites]


Hey, I'm a Tim, and I look way more like that tim than I do that Bob. What do you know.

I find this interesting, and not altogether unsurprising.
posted by teece at 12:01 PM on May 22, 2007


So does Bill Murray look like a Bill or like a Bob?
posted by blucevalo at 12:02 PM on May 22, 2007


But does a Bob look like a Robert?
posted by NationalKato at 12:04 PM on May 22, 2007


LOLBOBZ
posted by Mister_A at 12:05 PM on May 22, 2007


See, I think the guy on the left looks like an "Edgar" or a "Roger", and the guy on the right looks like a "Neil".

Nomenclature is one of those things that's a lot fun to talk about, but doesn't have any real application, like astral projection, astrology, or libertarianism.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 12:11 PM on May 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


OMG, the round faced guy looks exactly like my brother Tim. I'll have to start calling him Bob!
posted by maryh at 12:14 PM on May 22, 2007


This explains why everybody always calls me Jason, even though my name is Josh. I even answer to it now it happens so much.

Now I just need to assemble the argonauts.
posted by The Power Nap at 12:16 PM on May 22, 2007


I'm bob and I don't have a big fat round face.
posted by puke & cry at 12:20 PM on May 22, 2007


Which is why I could never get into Bob Newhart's second sitcom. He just wasn't beleivable as a guy named "Dick".
posted by wendell at 12:22 PM on May 22, 2007


But sometimes the Bob can lie.
posted by Abiezer at 12:23 PM on May 22, 2007


I correctly identified Tim and Bob even though I am a Bob but I look more like a Tim.

(Wow, that hurts to read in preview)
But mayby I'm aprototypical.
posted by MtDewd at 12:23 PM on May 22, 2007


I'm bob and I don't have a big fat round face.

Yeah, why don't you just puke and cry about it?
posted by NationalKato at 12:27 PM on May 22, 2007


I'm a woman, and I don't know any other women who look like Alices. Kates, maybe. What about lesbian women? Do they look like Robertas?
posted by misha at 12:31 PM on May 22, 2007


I kinda hate my name because of this sort of stuff. FWIW my first name is "Nate," and I've always gone by Nate, but around my freshman year in college I realized that every other Nate I'd ever met was kind of a dick. (No offense to other Nates out there - just something I noticed). Then I met a really great guy named Nathan.
I started going by Nathan... I dunno why - maybe it's a little more professional. I think it's worked.

Strangely enough, I'll also submit that people named Nate really seem to love fishing and playing D&D. I also love these two things - though I look desperately out of place at a D&D session. I've always wondered about that.

Overall, I'm glad to have made the switch.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 12:33 PM on May 22, 2007


This is, of course, to say nothing of those pernicious "Nathaniels". New Testament names, indeed.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 12:34 PM on May 22, 2007


"He looks like a Bob."

Is that with one "o" or two?
posted by three blind mice at 12:38 PM on May 22, 2007


The only Nate I ever knew carried a switchblade that he did not know how to use, dangled snakes around his neck in a desperate ploy for popularity (which backfired radically), wore nothing but wife-beaters no matter the weather, and had a fond love for bad '80s butt rock.
posted by AmberV at 12:40 PM on May 22, 2007


If I showed you a picture of a mexican, chinese and american you could easily identify which was wang,juan and john and you wouldnt think that was surprising at all. This is just a case of people that are a bit closer culturally/racially, but still there's going to be a tendency towards family names.
posted by Osmanthus at 12:41 PM on May 22, 2007


He looks like a Steven to me.
posted by bepe at 12:45 PM on May 22, 2007


It's also a case of name frequencies in each generation. A girl named Jennifer is inevitably a girl around my age (late 30's), usually with long blond hair. There are no old women named Jennifer nor are there as many baby girls being named Jennifer. So what a Jennifer looks like gets narrowed down pretty quickly.
posted by vacapinta at 12:46 PM on May 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


All white people look like Bobs to me.
posted by allen.spaulding at 12:47 PM on May 22, 2007


Actually, now that I think about it... I answer to Bob for an entire year of my life.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:48 PM on May 22, 2007


answered
posted by miss lynnster at 12:50 PM on May 22, 2007


I think I look like a Thaddeus.
posted by T.D. Strange at 12:50 PM on May 22, 2007


"Bob" could probably go as "Rob" or "Robert" or "Bobby" or "Robbie."

"Tim" could probably go as "Timothy" or "Timmy."

The effect is less impressive to me when the person (or his peers) have probably had a large role in selecting the name.
posted by bjrubble at 12:51 PM on May 22, 2007


I'm more of an 'El Jefe de Pantalones.' At least when I look in the mirror.
posted by NationalKato at 12:53 PM on May 22, 2007


So what might a davy or a David look like? And no I don't mean a statue.
posted by davy at 1:03 PM on May 22, 2007


The Head of Trousers? (That's what translate.google.com says; I already translated "jefe" as "chief" and "head" was "cabeza.")
posted by davy at 1:06 PM on May 22, 2007


"Wilda Lynn" sounds mighty close to "will to live." Hmm, the Force is strong in this one....
posted by pax digita at 1:11 PM on May 22, 2007


If I can be perfectly Frank, he looks like a Dick. I mean that in Earnest. But now that the thread is Petering out I'll be in the John.
posted by Floydd at 1:21 PM on May 22, 2007 [3 favorites]


And yesterday I read about a study that suggested that the language we use shapes our perception of the world. Sound unbelievable?
They tested russians and americans on their color perception. When having to pick out a certain nuance of blue, the russians were 10 percent faster overall. According to the article I read, there are a specific word for that nuance of blue in russian but not in english.
Studies like these help determine exactly how the Sapir-Worf hyphothesis should be viewed.
posted by Catfry at 1:27 PM on May 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


According to the Social Security Administration, "Wilda" was in the top 1000 until 1954.
At 987, it's the 1954 version of 2006's "Selene."
posted by Floydd at 1:28 PM on May 22, 2007


Pax Digita is a concept (and a thoroughly discreditable one at that), so I guess I got away on that one.


"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."
--From Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)
posted by pax digita at 1:29 PM on May 22, 2007


FWIW my first name is "Nate," and I've always gone by Nate, but around my freshman year in college I realized that every other Nate I'd ever met was kind of a dick. (No offense to other Nates out there - just something I noticed).

When I was a teen, I noticed that every girl that everyone wanted to date was already dating a guy named Dave. So I dropped David (which I didn't like anyway) and went with Dave.

and it worked!
posted by davejay at 1:35 PM on May 22, 2007


I look like a Smedleyman, what with the big “S” and the CMH on my chest, copy of “War is a Racket” and the cape and all.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:38 PM on May 22, 2007


To me the most interesting thing about this is the application of remembering the person's name afterwards. I have a friend named Chris, who looks like a Chris. I first met him at a large party where I knew very few people, and his name stuck in my head. This last weekend, I attended a wedding where half the people there seemed to be named Chris. None of them "looked like it," however, and I couldn't remember their names seemingly ever. My own name apparently fits me very well, as everybody I ever meet remembers it later, which is nice, though somewhat embarrassing as I rarely remember theirs.

Obviously, if people remember your name, it goes leagues to help you socialize better and meet new people. If there is indeed any real application to this, it's in just showing how helpful (or potentially harmful) nicknames can be.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:40 PM on May 22, 2007


I'm a Bobby, and I have a round face. I guess it's true. Interesting post!
posted by winks007 at 1:46 PM on May 22, 2007


The guy on the right doesn't look like, bob, he looks like an asshole.
posted by prodigalsun at 1:49 PM on May 22, 2007


And I have never met a Vanessa that wasn't, like, totally hot.
posted by prodigalsun at 1:53 PM on May 22, 2007


I think it's interesting that expressions like "an ordinary Joe" or "Joe six-pack" are so common even though I've known very few actual Joes.

OK, back to Bob.
posted by kozad at 1:54 PM on May 22, 2007


What killed me about the whole Plame/Libby thing is that a grown man apparently insisted people call him "Scooter." Does this look like a "Scooter" to you?
posted by pax digita at 1:56 PM on May 22, 2007


So I am a Sarah. I think I look like a Sarah. I think that this means tall, pale, blondish, and green-eyed. Sarah is not uncommon though. Half the girls on my freshman dorm floor were named Sarah.
One day in my history 102 class, I'm talking to the girl who happened to sit next to me (it was one of those giant lecture hall classes with 100+ students). She's Muslim (wearing a veil) and also has dark skin, dark eyes and hair. So after we've been chatting a while she says "Oh by the way, my name is Sarah, nice to meet you".
So after that I didn't know what a Sarah was supposed to look like, but I knew that there were too darn many of us.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 2:05 PM on May 22, 2007


Dibs on "the bouba/kiki effect" as a band name!
posted by moonmilk at 2:08 PM on May 22, 2007


I just found out... apparently this is what Wildas look like. Her weird Barbara Bush hair horrifies me and I think a bee has stung her lower lip. But hey... she's apparently a singer. So maybe it's not as far off as I thought.
posted by miss lynnster at 2:08 PM on May 22, 2007


So I am a Sarah. I think I look like a Sarah. I think that this means tall, pale, blondish, and green-eyed.

I ran into a book in a gift shop once that listed names and people's common perceptions of what type of people have them (not at all a scientific study-type-thing). Naturally I looked up my name (Sara - of course they only had Sarah) and discovered that 'Sarah' brings to the mind of many people someone who is slightly plump, has curly hair, and is their aunt. Who knew?

(I have been asked by two middle eastern people if I had converted to Islam and taken an Arabic name; they were not aware that the name was common in the west too.)
posted by frobozz at 2:43 PM on May 22, 2007


I am not really a bob; I just play one on the interwebs.
posted by leftcoastbob at 3:08 PM on May 22, 2007


Whenever I hear the name "Sheila" I think "Slut." I have no idea why--I don't think I even know anyone with that name.
posted by leftcoastbob at 3:09 PM on May 22, 2007


My sister's name is Helen.
She's not asian.
Please advise.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 3:14 PM on May 22, 2007


I am tall, pale, hazel-eyed, have curly hair, and am an aunt. I am Sara. Hear me... knit?
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:21 PM on May 22, 2007


Osmanthus: If I showed you a picture of a mexican, chinese and american you could easily identify which was wang,juan and john and you wouldnt think that was surprising at all.

What if you showed me a picture of a mexican-chinese-american? (This would be fairly easy for me, as it describes 80% of my family). No one EVER gets our names right. I have taken to spelling mine backwards.
posted by nax at 3:22 PM on May 22, 2007


I am a Bob, Bobby, Bobbie, Robert, what-have-you. My name depends on where I am and who I'm talking to. :-)

I look in the mirror and I see a round face. Speaking as one who knows, it's really accentuated by going bald!
posted by Robert Angelo at 3:27 PM on May 22, 2007


I have personally experienced this. Whenever anyone forgets my name (or knows my name but accidentally uses the wrong name) they call me Chris. My name is Eric. People all say I look like a Chris.
posted by agentofselection at 3:41 PM on May 22, 2007


Balinese people? Only have four names. Based on birth order. Sex doesn't matter. If they have five kids, they just start back at the beginning. So everyone basically looks like a Wayan (Yan), Made (pronounced "mah-day"), "Nyoman" (Man for short), and Ketut. Really easy to guess names.

In Egypt, probably 70% of the men I met were named Mohammed. So all Egyptians look like Mohammeds to me.
posted by miss lynnster at 3:44 PM on May 22, 2007


I look like an Alvy, but I make love like a Ricardo, or maybe even a Juan, if I eat my wheaties.

I am a Ricardo. My name has been a huge asset, I must say.
posted by vacapinta at 4:10 PM on May 22, 2007


Well, Wilda wasn't so bad after they left the "A" off of it on my driver's license in college.

Yeah, good times.
posted by miss lynnster at 4:26 PM on May 22, 2007


miss lynnster, between that article on Balanese naming conventions and and this one on Icelandic naming conventions, my mind is oficially blown.

Yes, my mind gets blown easily. It keeps me from getting bored.
posted by lekvar at 4:26 PM on May 22, 2007


Oh that's nothing, lekvar... Arabic names are even more nuts. They're so bizarrely complex, it's amazing. Nobody has three names like we do (I believe we adopted the way the Romans named eachother), they have like ten. Their full names can often say who their parents are, where they are from, what their great grandfather did for a living, whether or not their grandmother was pretty... you name it.

The example Wikipedia uses is: "Abu Karim Muhammad al-Jamil ibn Nidal ibn Abdulaziz al-Filistini" which is in translation: "Father-of-Karim, Muhammad, the beautiful, son of Nidal, son of Abdulaziz, the Palestinian." And from what I've seen, that's almost short.

Also, when women give birth to a first son, their name then is altered to reflect their son's name. For example if her first son is named Sharif, then her name becomes "Umm Sharif," or "mother of Sharif." (Screw the rest of the kids. Hopefully Sharif won't be a total loser...)
posted by miss lynnster at 4:53 PM on May 22, 2007


The Phillippine name game

I am a Liza. We look... strange.
posted by Pallas Athena at 5:07 PM on May 22, 2007


And I have never met a Vanessa that wasn't, like, totally hot.

Ditto for Jackie, in my experience.
posted by kcds at 5:34 PM on May 22, 2007


Ignoring the fact that I am mostly anti-nicknames, I could totally see Tim as a Rob, which is just as short for Robert as Bob is. Bob looks more like a Bob, to me, because he looks more like the kind of person who would shorten a name like Robert to something that I find awful, like Bob. But Bob could be a Rob, too. Only Tim could be a Bobby, however. Neither Tim nor Bob could be a Timmy. Um.

I've always wondered why someone named Richard would choose Dick as their nickname, especially considering the plethora of other viable options, though I suppose that can be mostly chalked up to that name only recently coming to have particular negative [and positive!] connotations. But still.

I have no idea what people would think a Petra looks like, but whatever it may be, I can guarantee that it's not what I see in the mirror every day.
posted by eunoia at 5:49 PM on May 22, 2007


I immediately identified Tim as Bob, since he looks just like my brother Bob. More to the point, I would question the results of any study that uses college students to obtain its data. Due to either their cell phones or their iPods, I'm sure they didn't hear the question(s) correctly.
posted by LeLiLo at 6:24 PM on May 22, 2007


I can't stand "Dave" and loathe anyone who insists on calling me that. I'd go by David here except I think it was already taken. Davy (or Davey) is what my family calls me; I didn't know Metafilter allowed uppercase, I'm from the "8 alphanumeric lowercase characters only" logname era. And I can't get that Social Security CGI script to work.
posted by davy at 7:05 PM on May 22, 2007


All kinds of chyx be hawt if they think they are. If their parents gave 'em stodgy names they can always call themselves Kandee while they poledance.
posted by davy at 7:07 PM on May 22, 2007


I'm a Bobby, and I have a round face. I guess it's true. Interesting post!

Okay, folks, some of you seem to be misunderstanding the article and the study to which it refers. All the study showed was that people expect certain names to be associated with certain features. That in no way says anything about how strongly those features correlate to those names.

In fact, the study (as I understand it from the article) didn't even show that much, but rather demonstrated a correlation between how easily people remember names and how much those remembered names correspond to how in accordance are the faces/name pairs with people's expectations. On an individual level, this could easily be selection bias manifesting in memory. A similar explanation for how this could be regular across a large sample of people would require something external that set a similar expectation for many different people. One possibility could be celebrities and their names. If you add to this the fictional visual representations of people and how they are named, then you have a feedback loop. All of this, for example, could be entirely independent of actual name/expectation correlation—and that correlation could be nonexistant.

Alternatively, an explanation for these expectations could be the correlation that people in this thread are taking for granted—that people with (some?) different names actually look a certain way. There's no evidence for this, but assuming that it's the case, the explanation could be a causal relationship between name frequency and certain ethnic subpopulations.

Confusing the matter is the likliehood that both explanations describe what happens in the real world—both distinctly in the case of different names (some expectations don't correspond to reality but are preserved because of selection bias and cultural inertia while other expectations do correspond to reality because of ethnic naming frequency) and in some cases in combination.

My guess is that it's a continuum. On one end, a small number of first names are reliably associated with certain ethnic subgroups and we experience that in our naming expectations. On the other, a small number of first names are associated with certain features not because they actually correspond to what real people with those features look like, but rather because some cultural factor has infected us with that expectation and then because of selection bias we are sensitized to it in our memory. And in the vast middle are names that don't have any sort of discernable correlation to people's expectations as a group—though obviously individuals form certain expectations (with the same sort of consequent selection bias) from their experiences with individual people they've known.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:07 PM on May 22, 2007


On the boubakiki effect.

You know, I never once thought of myself as having any kind of synesthesia, but just now when looking at it I said, "Huh. I would probably have gotten it backwards from most people. But that's just because kiki is definitely purple. If the colors had been switched I would have said the same thing."

I never realized I saw words as having colors before. I'll need to start looking for that more.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:25 PM on May 22, 2007



I have no idea what people would think a Petra looks like, but whatever it may be, I can guarantee that it's not what I see in the mirror every day.


Petra looks like Lilith from Frasier.
posted by frobozz at 8:20 PM on May 22, 2007


I named my car Petra. Because she's sporty and practical and German. Petra Liesel the Biodiesel
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:24 PM on May 22, 2007


Honestly, how cool would it be if our national culture encouraged people to take their own chosen names once they reached adulthood? Granted, most of them would probably be lame, but at least you'd immediately have a better idea of who was worth hanging out with.

It'd be sort of like MeFi handles, but with a lot more idiots.

Possible exchange in this future: "Wow, he doesn't look like a SexyBukakeDeath"
posted by Navelgazer at 10:08 PM on May 22, 2007


Screennames don't, except at the extremes, seem to accurately indicate much about people's personalities. At least in my experience.

What would work, I bet, is if other people got to name a person when he/she reached adulthood.

For that matter, this should be done online. Here. On MetaFilter.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:11 PM on May 22, 2007


The only strong name association I have is weird - I think that the name Narelle (mostly used in Australia I believe) is a name for a sheep.

Whenever I hear the name, I just get a mental picture of a sheep. Weird.
posted by tomble at 11:20 PM on May 22, 2007


The chef at a resort I stayed at had a name, but I kept somehow thinking it was otherwise. I occasionally get this juxtaposition of names in my mind, where one name links to another, so I am likely to use either.

I probably resemble my real name. I definitly resemble my MeFi nick, right down to the tail. (hyuk hyuk hyuk). As a kid, I always hated my name, because whenever it was in a show, it was the bad guy.
posted by Goofyy at 3:11 AM on May 23, 2007


All squirrels in Los Angeles were named "Fred" by me. (The girl squirrels had all different names.) In the Bay area, none of the squirrels here look like a Fred. Some of them look like Charles or Buddy or Joey or whatever. But not one Fred so far.
posted by miss lynnster at 7:50 AM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


The Balrog speaks the truth. I have never gone by "Nate" because of the Nate=Asshole effect*. I use Nathaniel as a professional name, because it works that way but not as someone you'd want to, you know, hang out with.

*Nates are also sidekicks. I am no sidekick.
posted by norm at 8:02 AM on May 23, 2007


Is it true that most sysadmins are named Steve or Eric? And why do they always have mustaches.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 11:27 AM on May 23, 2007


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