How Your Surname Can Affect Your Decisions And Even Cost You Money

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.

How Your Name May Cost You at the Mall [Time via Wise Bread]


    Definitely saw time and again at school that resources or time would run out for particular activities towards the end of the alphabet. There was never any effort to redress any of these by reverse orderings or similar.

    Also works the other way around. Earliest names usually gets untested methods, or unplanned outcomes.

      Yeah, they get A-bombs dropped on them.

        Japan's kinda in the middle though.

    For two years in a row I missed out on a locker at school because of that BS and the rest of them I was made to pick last therefore getting the crappy locker that didn't shut correctly.

    I dislike the alphabet. :/

    I just lost 5 min of my life reading this...........

      If it took you 5 mins to read 5 paragraphs I don't think you would have spent that time curing cancer.

        Thanks Mr Literal, appreciate your feedback

        Now, off to cure cancer!

    My name starts with W, and this sounds like a bit of hoggswallop to me and another excuse to stage an "everyone gets a medal" day at school.

    I was immediately reminded of this:

    Awesome story. <3 Asmiov

    Took a while for this article to migrate from Gizmodo to Lifehacker...

    As a former teacher I can say I often reversed the order or even started in the middle of the alphabet to change things up.

    In my school I was always one of the last in line as my surname starts with V. To be fair the teachers would often alphabetized by our first names. My first name starts with W so I was still at the end of the line. I even got picked last at sport but that had nothing to do with alphabetical order, just the fact that I was bad at sport.

    My primary school didn't do the last name thing it was first names that hey did but most teachers stopped that and just did random students instead of name based

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now