Why Picking Unusual Baby Names May Harm Your Children

by Editors

Why Picking Unusual Baby Names May Harm Your Children

Study finds baby names that are perceived as too different may adversely affect children later in life.


Unusual baby names are trendier than ever. I’m looking at you Robert Downey Jr. Avri is a beautiful baby name, but certainly different. And you Alyssa Milano. Elizabella’s beyond lovely, but again, not overly common.


Of course, there’s nothing wrong with unique names. After all, I know enough Emmas and Aidans to fill a hospital nursery. But you may want to think twice before you pick a hard-to-pronounce, or “kinda out there” moniker for your little one. That’s because a name that is perceived as too different may actually have an adverse effect on your child later in life.


A 2012 study looked at how one’s name impacts people’s opinion of him or her. Names in different regions of the world were studied, and researchers found the more unusual the name, the more likely that person will be regarded as risky or dangerous.


Researchers also found that simple statements were more believable if they were made by a person with a simple name, versus a person with an unusual name.


As crazy as these findings sound, lead researcher Eryn Newman of the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand explains why these different sounding name biases exist.


“From other research, we know that people think that food additives with easier names are safer than those with difficult names. So we don’t think it is a stereotype about foreign names. Instead, we think that the easy names just feel more familiar or easy to process than the difficult names. To the Fred Flintstone parts of our brains, that feeling of ease or familiarity signals something that we can trust, but information that’s difficult to process signals danger,” she says.


Of course, how your child will be perceived is just one factor to consider in choosing the perfect baby name. If you truly love a particular moniker, who cares what a study has to say about it?


But consider that this finding supports multiple other studies that indicate a name has an impact on how people fare in their careers. For instance, Johns may have an easier time getting ahead than Reigns (ahem, Kourtney Kardashian). And throughout life, a person with a hard-to-pronounce name may not be as believable; say in a courtroom, or when confronted by a law enforcement official.


So you may want to think long and hard about those unusual baby names on your list. Or don’t, and just hope your baby becomes friends with, and ends up working for, others with unusual monikers.