Ideas for a Project

Hi, everyone! I am a new poster, but not new to the site at all. I am in high school, and will be doing a research project over the course of the year. Being a name enthusiast, I decided to do a social sciences project over the popular perceptions of names, especially in the high school realm. I will be conducting several small studies, including a survey based on Albert Mehrabian's book, The Name Game. Does anyone have suggestions for studies I could carry out pertaining to high school students? I would love feedback! Thanks!


By EVie
September 8, 2013 11:34 PM

Very cool topic for a project! I would first ask, are you interested in high school students' perceptions of names in general, or high school students' perceptions of their peers' names, or people in general's perception of high school students' names?

One thing to keep in mind, especially regarding Mehrabian's book, is that any study that looks at the perception of names will probably be subject to what psychologists call a "cohort effect"—people born in different eras are going to perceive things differently, because they have been influenced by the different circumstances in which they grew up. So your peers will probably perceive the names in Mehrabian's book differently from the people he surveyed for the initial publication of the book in 1990. A good study you could do to start would be to survey your peers about the names in Mehrabian's book using the same methodology that he used (in psychogical terms, a "replication" of his study) and see if you get different results. I haven't read the book myself, but you could look at what kind of claims he is making—is he saying that his results are an absolute measure of a name's perception, or does he acknowlege that there are cohort effects? Does he survey a broad range of age groups to form his data set (and if so, does he look at the differences between cohorts?), or are his participants all college undergraduates? If you wanted to add a dimension to your study, you could survey both your high school peers and a group of older or middle-aged adults and compare the results for the two groups.

September 9, 2013 11:51 AM

If you interested in how students judge people based on their names, you could do an experiment like this:

Using a few different groups of students at different times, show each student a photo of the exact same people (you could just use stock photos), but "name" the people something very different for each group. Then ask the members of the  group to individually answer questions about that person, such as:

-On a scale of 1-10, how intelligent do you think Charles is?

-On a scale of 1-10, how funny do you think Charles is?

-On a scale of 1-10, how compassionate do you think Charles is?

You could use drastically different name styles for each group, but since they'd be looking at the exact same photos of the exact same people, the names would be the only difference. Then you could compare results and determine whether the names you associate with the photos affected the responses.


September 10, 2013 10:21 PM

This reminds me of an activity we did in an educational-methods class I took.  Only we didn't look at pictures, we "graded" essays.  Allegedly same-quality essays by "Abner" and "Gertrude" by and large received lower grades than "Matthew" and "Heather."  Scary.

September 12, 2013 10:47 PM

Thank you all very much! After posting, I met with a teacher to discuss statistics and discovered that, with my resources, it isn't really possible to test everthing I wanted and have it be anything like valid. His suggestion was a much more testable than my previous plan - it very similar to the one Donna Lee suggested, to determine the effect of a student's name on the teacher's perceptions of them. I think I will be undertaking this for the time being, and I will be glad to let you know the results. Thanks again! 

September 23, 2013 1:48 PM

Donna Lee, do you know if a similar study was ever conducted and documented? This is the project I have decided on, but I am having trouble doing research and finding information.

September 25, 2013 9:24 PM

I'm so sorry that I can't help you with this.  I went and looked at my old notebooks (it was about fifteen years ago), but all I had in there were hand-written notes from the professors's lecture.  Nothing cited.


September 30, 2013 1:41 PM

Thanks! I appreciate your help.