Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

The Sciences

NCBI ROFL: The effect of hurricanes on popular baby names.

DiscoblogBy ncbi roflOctober 5, 2012 4:00 AM

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

"How do psychological processes shape how culture evolves? We investigated how a cultural item's popularity is shaped by the recent popularity of other items with features in common. Specifically, using more than 100 years of first-names data, we examined how a name's popularity is influenced by the popularity of that name's component phonemes in other names in the previous year. Building on mere-exposure research, we found that names are more likely to become popular when similar names have been popular recently. These effects are nonlinear, however, and overpopularity hurts adoption. In addition, these effects vary with phoneme position. We demonstrate the causal impact of similarity on cultural success in a natural experiment using hurricane names. An exogenous shock to a phoneme's frequency, due to the presence of the phoneme in the names of prominent hurricanes, boosts the popularity of names that share that phoneme. Taken together, our results suggest how the similarity between cultural items affects how popular they become and how culture evolves more broadly." Bonus quote and figure from the full text: "The more attention a hurricane name received (i.e., the more damage that hurricane caused), the more popular baby names with the same phonemes became (Fig. 5). Following Hurricane Katrina, for example, names that begin with K saw an approximately 9% increase in usage. The effect was nonlinear, however, and after a certain point, additional increases in damages no longer increased the popularity of phoneme-sharing names. This suggests a potential trade-off between a positive boost from phonetic familiarity and either overpopularity or the negative connotations associated with an extremely damaging hurricane."

katrina-300x187.jpg

From Karen to Katie: Using Baby Names to Understand Cultural Evolution.

fig5.gif

karen-to-katie.png

Photo: flickr/NASA Goddard Photo and Video

Related content: Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Impressions of people with gender-ambiguous male or female first names.

Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: What’s in a name? Part I: U.G.H. you’re going to D.I.E.

Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: What’s in a name? Part III: Why Dennis is a dentist.

NCBI ROFL. Real articles. Funny subjects. Read our FAQ

!

    2 Free Articles Left

    Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

    Subscribe

    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

    Want unlimited access?

    Subscribe today and save 70%

    Subscribe

    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In