While your surname itself has little effect on what you do, the way it was used to categorise you in school may affect the way you think. Time Magazine highlights a study that explains how being at the end of an alphabetically ordered line for the majority of your childhood can cause you to make rash decisions.
Photo by Yuri Arcurs (Shutterstock).
There is no fairness in alphabetical order. If your name starts with a Z, you’re at the end. As it turns out, this can actually mess with your head over time:
“For years, simply because of your name, you’ve received inequitable treatment,” says Kurt Carlson, an assistant professor at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business and a co-author of the paper, which is to be published in the Journal of Consumer Research. “So when you get to exercise control, you seize on opportunity. It’s a coping strategy, and over time it becomes a natural way to respond.”
The study found that this translated into many real-world results, such as acting on time-sensitive offers and deals. People with last names beginning with letters later in the alphabet tended to jump on these deals much faster in fear of missing out. The study believes this fear was cultivated by always being in the back of the line, causing the lower-lettered last name subjects to concern themselves with being too late to the party.
It’s hard to say how widespread this inadvertent conditioning really is, but I feel fortunate to have missed out on this potential problem. I went to a school that ordered us alphabetically but would frequently reverse that order to allow kids at the end of the line to be first an equal amount of the time. Who knows what that meant for people in the middle. Regardless, this study is definitely something to keep in mind next time you’re about to jump on a seemingly hot group deal.
Has your last name affected your behaviour and spending habits? If you’re early on in the alphabet are you less-worried with getting a great deal? Let us know in the comments.