Study Finds Fascinating Link Between First Letter of Your First Name and the Trajectory of Your Life

It might sound far-fetched, but psychological researchers claim to have found evidence that your name can determine the direction of your life.

In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers from the University of Utah took an analytical look at the theory of nominative determinism, a longstanding concept positing that your name has an uncanny influence over your career and life.

Though it might sound like the sort of woo-woo pseudoscience employed by such disciplines as astrology and numerology, there's copious anecdotal evidence suggesting some legitimacy to the theory beyond mere coincidence. Take, for example, the long-distance runner Usain Bolt who's considered the fastest man alive, or Doug Bowser, the president of Nintendo of America.

Paper authors Promothesh Chatterjee, Himanshu Mishra, and Arul Mishra looked through Twitter, Google News, Google Books, and the massive web crawl database Common Crawl to try to figure out if the theory has any merit "in the real world." Using data about more than 3,400 people, the researchers found that when limiting searches to single-word queries — such as city names like "Chicago" or profession names like "doctor" — the tendency for people whose first letter of their first names matches the first letter of their chosen city and/or profession seemed to occur too common for it to be purely coincidental.

Not only did there seem to be a nominative determinism trend among modern folks, but as the authors suggest, the correlation remains consistent across decades, especially as women gained more freedom and professional opportunities in Western society during the 20th and 21st centuries.

Interestingly, the trend did seem to diminish somewhat as access to higher education increased, which according to the Utah trio suggests that people who didn't go to college may be more influenced by nominative determinism than those who do.

In an even more recent look at the phenomenon published by the CBC, people whose surnames seem to perfectly match their life paths marveled at the strange coincidences that shaped them. From Lesley Fox, the executive director of the Canadian conservation nonprofit The Fur Bearers to Ann Nightingale, a volunteer with the Rocky Point Bird Observatory in British Columbia, the nominative determinism that appears to be on display for these folks is as surprising to them as it is to everyone else.

"A lot of thought has to be given to a name," Fox told the CBC. "I do think it, in some ways, can kind of create a destiny for someone — or a blueprint, maybe, which they operate."

As with any other out-there theory, there are certainly both detractors and exceptions to the rule — but there's also no reason to knock such a compelling concept purely out of kneejerk disbelief in that sort of thing, either.

More on wild theories: Fringe Theory Claims the Sun May Be Conscious