Name of an effect, negative amplification

Name of an effect, negative amplification

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I've read several times about an effect that turns up when you are in a conversation with a person and the person starts suddenly complaining about their job, hobby or relationship.

If one confirms their negative views on the topic, they change into a defensive position and start defending what they criticized before. If one does the opposite, they turn even more negative towards their complaints.

Has this an name?

Good or Bad, Baby Names Have Long-lasting Effects

Choosing a baby name proves to be a challenging task for many parents. And they're wise to work hard at it. A name can have a profound impact on a child that reverberates well into adulthood, a growing body of research suggests.

"There is a reason why baby name books are extremely popular," said David Figlio of Northwestern University in Illinois. "We're always trying to think about the first bit of a child's identity and so if we as a society pay a lot of attention to names it makes a lot of sense that people's names might influence how they think about themselves and the way in which people might think about them."

Plenty of research suggests the name chosen impacts a baby's life well into adulthood. For instance, donning your newborn boy with a girly sounding name could mean behavioral problems later in life. And unique baby names that only your child will have can be a hardship too.

A British study of 3,000 parents released in May suggests one-in-five parents regret the name they chose for a child, many of whom were distressed over the unusual or oddly spelled names they'd chosen. And even those who didn't explicitly regret the name choice admitted there were names they knew now they wished they'd chosen then, according to the study conducted by [List of history's most popular baby names.]

Girly names

Boys with names traditionally given to girls are more likely to misbehave than their counterparts with masculine names, research suggests.

When in elementary school, boys named Ashley and Shannon, for instance, behave just like their more masculine-named classmates named Brian and other boyish names.

"Once these kids hit sixth grade, all of a sudden the rates of disciplinary problems skyrocket [for those boys with girlish names], and it was much more the case if there happened to be a girl in the grade with that same name," Figlio told LiveScience.

Imagine, Figlio said, having to come face-to-face with your girly name every day when there's a girl in the classroom with a matching moniker. That suggests feelings of self-consciousness, which are perhaps magnified by teasing from others, play a role in the name-behavior link in this case.

Girls given boy names also see an effect. In a 2005 study, Figlio parsed out names by their phonemic sounds and then figured out their likelihood of belonging to a girl. For instance, the names Kayla and Isabella were so phonemically feminine their predicted probability of belonging to a girl was more than 100 percent. At the other end of the spectrum, Taylor, Madison and Alexis were phonemically predicted to be twice as likely to belong to boys than girls.

"I found girls with names that are relatively feminine in high school chose advanced coursework in humanities &ndash and less feminine are more likely to choose math and science courses," Figlio said, adding the research focused on high-achieving girls.

He can't say that one causes the other. Perhaps parents treat one daughter, Morgan, differently from an early age than they do her sister Elizabeth, whose name is much more feminine. &ldquoDid the parents choose that when they were choosing the name or did the name end up shaping their behavior toward their daughter?&rdquo Figlio said.

Socioeconomic status and expectations

Just as a person's accent or clothing can indicate something about that individual's background or character, so can a first name. And just like any other external indicator, names can lie.

Figlio got names from millions of birth certificates, and then broke down each name into more than a thousand phonemic components. He analyzed the names for letter combinations, complexity and other factors, and then used a statistical analysis to figure out the probability that the name belonged to someone of low socioeconomic status.

"Kids who have names [that] from a linguistic perspective are likely to be given by poorly educated parents, those kids ended up being treated differently," Figlio said. "They do worse in school and are less likely to be recommended for gifted [classes] and more likely to be classified as learning disabled."

He specifically looked at more unusual baby names, since with common names people have their individual experiences that can taint one's perspective of that name. Say you went to school with a jerk named George, you're likely to associate that name with negative qualities, regardless of how the name sounds linguistically.

To account for the idea that "dropout moms" might just give their babies poor-sounding names, Figlio included siblings from the same family with both high- and low-status sounding names. (Not all "poor-sounding" names were donned by kids of low socioeconomic status.)

Meeting low expectations

The link between a name and success later in life could have to do with these kids fulfilling others' expectations of them. Names that sound as though they came from a family of low socioeconomic status, might be tagged as less capable of achieving, for instance.

"People draw subconscious cues all the time about people. You meet a person for the first time and without thinking about it on an explicit level you're looking at the way they're walking, what their accent sounds like, how they're dressed, whether they smell … and you're developing these immediate reactions," Figlio said.

He added, "I think there's probably an evolutionary reason behind that. We're hardwired to try to figure out in a heartbeat whether or not we want to trust somebody, whether we want to run from somebody.&rdquo

Today, Figlio said to imagine a teacher on the first day of class looking over his or her roster and trying to figure out what to expect from a child. Plenty of teachers have told Figlio "I have to fight myself from doing this. I see this name … I think maybe they aren't going to have active parents."

And so the story continues. Children typically meet expectations, research has shown.

Whether or not your name sounds upper class might not matter if you don&rsquot like it. Accumulating research has shown a strong link between a person's like or dislike of his or her name and high and low self-esteem, respectively.

"The relationship is so strong that when people want to measure self-esteem in a more subtle way you can do it with the name-letter task," said Jean Twenge of San Diego State University, referring to a method in which subjects report whether they like different letters of the alphabet. Those with high self-esteem will say they like those letters in their names, particularly the first letter, she said.

It makes sense if you think about how much a part of a person a name really is.

"Our names really are wrapped up in our identity, and that might be why you get this somewhat surprising finding at least in some areas," Twenge said during a telephone interview. "People who particularly dislike their name and also if other people think it's an odd and unlikeable name, that can cause some problems. [They] tend not to be as well-adjusted."

Unusual vs. common names

When it's time to pick baby's name, there are two types of parents, those who want an unusual baby name and those who prefer a more common name donned by lots of kids.

Turns out, even if the particular name chosen doesn't make a difference in a child's success later in life, whether or not that name is common or unusual does matter.

The difference between choosing, say, one of five common, relatively likeable names is small in terms of any impact on the child&rsquos life. "If you're choosing between a relatively likeable, common name and one that is really odd, that definitely could have an impact," Twenge said.

"Some of it ends up being a proxy for the parents' philosophy on life in general," Twenge said. "The parent who says 'I want my kid to be unique and stand out' and gives their kid a name that&rsquos uncommon, probably will have a parenting style that emphasizes uniqueness and standing out."

She added, "So it ends up building on itself. The type of parent who would give a really unusual name is often going to parent differently from a parent who says 'I want to give my child a name so they fit in.'"

Twenge's recent research suggests parents are, in fact, choosing more unusual baby names than decades ago.

Baby-naming advice books and blogs often suggest changing up the spelling of a common, or on-the-rise, name, in order to add some flare. Preliminary results from Figlio&rsquos work suggest that may not be wise. Children with a deviant spelling of a common name tended to have slowed spelling and reading capabilities.

"That suggests a lot about internalizing," Figlio said. &ldquoYou have the child named Jennifer spelled with a "G" &ndash her teacher says 'Are you sure your name is spelled that way?' That can be incredibly hard on a person's confidence.&rdquo

All this parents end up realizing, as the Bounty study shows: One-fifth of parents in the British study wished they had chosen a name that was easier to spell 8 percent were fed up with people being unable to pronounce the child&rsquos name and one in 10 thought the chosen name was clever at the time, but said the novelty had worn off.

Name of an effect, negative amplification - Psychology

Decision making is the cognitive process that results in the selection of a course of action or belief from several possibilities.

Learning Objectives

Explain the heuristics people use during the decision-making process

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Decision making is the cognitive process that results in the selection of a course of action or belief from several possibilities.
  • Heuristics are simple rules of thumb that people often use to form judgments and make decisions they are good for most situations but can sometimes lead to errors in judgment.
  • The availability heuristic judges the probability of an event based on how easily it comes to mind.
  • The representativeness heuristic uses categories, and judges how likely an individual is to belong to a category based on how closely he or she resembles a prototype of that category.
  • The anchoring effect happens when a person must choose a number, but the number is influenced, or “anchored,” by the person having just heard a different number.
  • The framing effect occurs when the way a decision is framed (i.e., positive or negative) affects the decision-making process.

Key Terms

Decision making is the cognitive process that results in the selection of a course of action or belief from several possibilities. It can be thought of as a particular type of problem solving the problem is considered solved when a solution that is deemed satisfactory is reached.


Heuristics are simple rules of thumb that people often use to form judgments and make decisions think of them as mental shortcuts. Heuristics can be very useful in reducing the time and mental effort it takes to make most decisions and judgments however, because they are shortcuts, they don’t take into account all information and can thus lead to errors.

The Availability Heuristic

In psychology, availability is the ease with which a particular idea can be brought to mind. When people estimate how likely or how frequent an event is on the basis of its availability, they are using the availability heuristic. When an infrequent event can be brought easily and vividly to mind, this heuristic overestimates its likelihood. For example, people overestimate their likelihood of dying in a dramatic event such as a tornado or a terrorist attack. Dramatic, violent deaths are usually more highly publicized and therefore have a higher availability. On the other hand, common but mundane events (like heart attacks and diabetes) are harder to bring to mind, so their likelihood tends to be underestimated. This heuristic is one of the reasons why people are more easily swayed by a single, vivid story than by a large body of statistical evidence. It affects decision making in a number of ways: people decide not to fly on a plane after hearing about a plane crash, but if their doctor says they should change their diet or they’ll be at risk for heart disease, they may think “Well, it probably won’t happen.” Since the former leaps to mind more easily than the latter, people perceive it as more likely.

Lottery ticket: Lotteries take advantage of the availability heuristic: winning the lottery is a more vivid mental image than losing the lottery, and thus people perceive winning the lottery as being more likely than it is.

The Representativeness Heuristic and the Base-Rate Fallacy

The representativeness heuristic is seen when people use categories—when deciding, for example,whether or not a person is a criminal. An individual object or person has a high representativeness for a category if that object or person is very similar to a prototype of that category. When people categorize things on the basis of representativeness, they are using the representativeness heuristic. While it is effective for some problems, this heuristic involves attending to the particular characteristics of the individual, ignoring how common those categories are in the population (called the base rates). Thus, people can overestimate the likelihood that something has a very rare property, or underestimate the likelihood of a very common property. This is called the base-rate fallacy, and it is the cause of many negative stereotypes based on outward appearance. Representativeness explains many of the ways in which human judgments break the laws of probability.

The Anchoring-and-Adjustment Heuristic

Anchoring and adjustment is a heuristic used in situations where people must estimate a number. It involves starting from a readily available number—the “anchor”—and shifting either up or down to reach an answer that seems plausible. However, people do not shift far enough away from the anchor to be random thus, it seems that the anchor contaminates the estimate, even if it is clearly irrelevant. In one experiment, subjects watched a number being selected from a spinning “wheel of fortune.” They had to say whether a given quantity was larger or smaller than that number. For instance, they were asked, “Is the percentage of African countries that are members of the United Nations larger or smaller than 65%?” They then tried to guess the true percentage. Their answers correlated with the arbitrary number they had been given. Insufficient adjustment from an anchor is not the only explanation for this effect. The anchoring effect has been demonstrated by a wide variety of experiments, both in laboratories and in the real world. It remains when the subjects are offered money as an incentive to be accurate, or when they are explicitly told not to base their judgment on the anchor. The effect is stronger when people have to make their judgments quickly. Subjects in these experiments lack introspective awareness of the heuristic—that is, they deny that the anchor affected their estimates.

Behavior Guidance of the Pediatric Dental Patient

Janice A. Townsend , . Paul Andrews , in Pediatric Dentistry (Sixth Edition) , 2019


Coping is the ability to manage threatening, challenging, or potentially harmful situations and is crucial for well-being. Coping strategies may be behavioral or cognitive. Behavioral coping efforts are overt physical or verbal activities, whereas cognitive efforts involve the conscious manipulation of one's thoughts or emotions. 11 An example of behavioral coping is the use of self-statements focusing on competence, such as “I am a brave boy,” which can help children tolerate uncomfortable situations for a longer period of time. 12 Effective coping strategies enable the individual to perceive some sense of control over the stressful event. Typically, older children have a more extensive coping repertoire than younger children. Girls have also been reported to use more emotional and comfort-seeking strategies when faced with a stressful event, but boys use more physical aggression and stalling techniques. However, coping skills vary greatly among individuals. Studies involving venipuncture show that lower pain scores were associated with children who reported using behavioral coping strategies. 11 Coping skills in patients with dental anxiety can be improved through cognitive behavioral therapy. 13

10. Emotional Intelligence Predicts Academic Performance: A Meta-Analysis

MacCann, C., et al.

Students with high emotional intelligence get better grades and score higher on standardized tests, according to the research presented in this article in Psychological Bulletin (Vol. 146, No. 2). Researchers analyzed data from 158 studies representing more than 42,529 students—ranging in age from elementary school to college—from 27 countries. The researchers found that students with higher emotional intelligence earned better grades and scored higher on achievement tests than those with lower emotional intelligence. This finding was true even when controlling for intelligence and personality factors, and the association held regardless of age. The researchers suggest that students with higher emotional intelligence succeed because they cope well with negative emotions that can harm academic performance they form stronger relationships with teachers, peers, and family and their knowledge of human motivations and socialinteractions helps them understand humanities subject matter. DOI: 10.1037/bul0000219

Decreased Trust in Government

It makes sense that people might feel more afraid of their government when they think they’re being watched, but the effects go deeper. One study found that when people identified with a leader, their trust in that leader actually decreased when they found out they were being watched. Another study found that people’s willingness to put up with surveillance decreases when they realize that they are the ones being watched instead of a mysterious bad guy.

Halo Effect Research Findings

Halo effect represent an extremely widespread phenomenon in impression formation judgments. Even something as innocuous as a person’s name may give rise to halo effects. In one telling experiment, schoolteachers were asked to rate compositions allegedly written by third- and fourth-grade children. The children were only identified by their given names, which were either conventional names (e.g., David, Michael) or were unusual names (e.g., Elmer, Hubert). These researchers found that exactly the same essay was rated almost one mark worse when the writer had an unusual name than when the writer had a common, familiar name. In this case, names exerted a halo effect on the way a completely unrelated issue, essay quality, was assessed.

In some intriguing cases, halo effects also operate in a reverse direction: Assumed personal qualities may influence people’s perceptions of a person’s observable, objective external qualities. In one fascinating experiment, students were asked to listen to a guest lecture. Some were told that the lecturer was a high-status academic from a prestigious university. Others were told that the lecturer was a low-status academic from a second-rate university. After the lecture, all students completed a series of judgments about the guest lecturer. Among other questions, they were also asked to estimate the physical height of the lecturer. Amazingly, those who believed the lecturer to be of high academic status overestimated his physical height by almost 6 centimeters compared to those who believed him to be a low-status person. In this case, academic status exerted a halo effect on perceptions of height, despite the fact that height is in fact a directly observable, physical quality.

When a known negative characteristic gives rise to unjustified negative inferences about the unrelated qualities of a person, the halo effect is sometimes called the devil effect or the horn effect. For example, if your office colleague is often unshaven or unkempt, people are more likely to assume that the person is lazy or incompetent, even though these two qualities may be unrelated.

Negative Mental Health Effects of Pandemic Lockdowns Spike, Then Fade

Absent a widely available vaccine, mitigation measures such as stay-at-home mandates, lockdowns or shelter-in-place orders have been the major public health policies deployed by state governments to curb the spread of COVID-19.

But given the uncertain duration of such policies, questions have been raised about the potential negative mental health consequences of extended lockdowns with indefinite end dates. But according to new research co-written by a team of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign experts who study the intersection of health care and public policy, the negative mental health effects of such lockdowns are temporary and gradually decrease over time as people adjust to their “new normal.”

Research co-written by Dolores Albarracín, a professor of psychology and of business administration at Illinois, and Bita Fayaz Farkhad, an economist and a postdoctoral researcher in psychology at Illinois, found that social distancing policies correlated with immediate increases in interest in obtaining information about “isolation” and “worry” – but those effects tapered off two to four weeks after their respective peaks.

“Previous studies of the psychological impact of lockdowns during other disease outbreaks have indicated that quarantines are associated with increased mental health symptoms,” Farkhad said. “We wanted to study how serious the mental health impact of the mitigation phase was during the initial COVID-19 outbreak last spring. Did it go beyond people feeling anxious or disheartened? Was it long lasting, and did it increase suicide ideation and the need for medical treatment for depression?

“These questions are, quite obviously, important from a mental and public health perspective.”

Albarracín and Farkhad measured mental health trends from January 2020 through the end of June by analyzing daily, state-located search data via Google Trends, which afforded the researchers a large-scale search overview and the ability to parse information about searches for a given period in a search locale. The researchers first used a set of terms related to mitigation policies, and then obtained data on searches about mental health. The search data set also included terms for in-home activities.

The researchers found that the negative effects of stay-at-home orders weren’t as dire as initially thought.

“At the outset of the pandemic, consistent with prior research, social distancing policies correlated with a spike in searches about how to deal with isolation and worry, which shouldn’t be surprising,” said Albarracín, also the director of the Social Action Lab at Illinois. “Generally speaking, if you have a pandemic or an economic shock, that’s going to produce its own level of anxiety, depression and negative feelings, and we had both with COVID-19.”

But the effects on searches for isolation and worry due to the mitigation policies were temporary and decreased gradually after peaking, the researchers said.

“Our findings showed that even though the mitigation measures increased negative feelings of isolation or worry, the effects were mostly transient,” Farkhad said. “A potential explanation of this finding is that even though social isolation increased risk factors for mental health, the stay-at-home order also increased within-home hours that might promote new routines and greater social support within the family. Searches for activities such as ‘exercise,’ ‘Netflix’ and ‘cooking’ were positively associated with the stay-at-home policy, suggesting that individuals enjoyed spending more time at home.”

Moreover, the policies correlated with a reduction in searches for “antidepressants” and “suicide,” thus revealing no evidence of increases in severe symptomatology, according to the paper.

“It is possible that people who were able to work from home liked working from home, liked being able to set their own schedule and liked being able to exercise more, all of which has positive mental and physical health benefits,” Farkhad said. “Although they might not be able to go out to a restaurant or bar, they have a little bit more control over other aspects of their life, which enhances well-being.”

The researchers found that the negative effects of stay-at-home orders weren’t as dire as initially thought. Image is in the public domain

“That suggests that people adjusted to their new situation and that the negative mental health effects dissipated.”

The public health policy implications are that if states need to go through an extended lockdown period again with COVID-19, health professionals ought to pay extra attention to people with acute cases of depression and anxiety, and target them for extra help via telemedicine, Farkhad said.

“However, the psychological distress following the lockdown orders is likely to be low compared with the overall health benefits of mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said. “Implementing interventions aimed at increasing social connection and social support might be an important mechanism for addressing the potential negative psychological consequences if sheltering-in-place becomes necessary once again to tame the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The paper was published in the journal Economics and Human Biology.

4. Results

As shown in Table 1 , the results revealed that if drug effect was described respectively in a therapeutically effective rate or ineffective rate, the participants gave the former a more positive evaluation (t = 3.34, P = 0.01). As shown in Table 2 that if the doctor’ advise was respectively described in the benefit of compliance and the aftermath of violation, the former one lead to a better compliance (t = 2.14, P = 0.035).

Table 1

QuestionnaireMean Response a
Positive: 100 patients taking one kind of medicine, 70 patients became better. How would you evaluate the drug effect?4.36 ± 1.17
Negative: 100 patients taking one kind of medicine, 30 patients didn’t become better. How would you evaluate the drug effect?3.26 ± 2.01

a Response was made from 𠇁” means “very bad” to 𠇆” means “very good

Table 2

Questionnaire Mean response a
Positive: Doctor tells you that although you particularly like to eat bacon, if you stop eating, your body cholesterol content would be significantly reduced, and thus the possibility of suffering from cardiovascular disease would be greatly reduced. Would you continue to eat bacon? 2.56 ± 1.23
Negative: Doctors tells you that although you particularly like to eat bacon, if you continue to eat, your body cholesterol content will significantly rise, and thus the possibility of suffering from cardiovascular disease would be greatly increased. Would you continue to eat bacon? 2.10 ± 0.89

a Response was made from 𠇁” means “surely stop eating” to 𠇆” means “surely continue eating

Table 3 presented the classic Asia Disease Problem which we used as an example of risky choice framing of options equivalent. The results revealed that in a positive frame, people tend to be risk seeking, while in a negative frame, people tend to be risk avoiding. The framing effect was significant (t = -2.72, P = 0.007). Table 4 described the risky choice framing effect when the candidate options were not equivalent. As the results revealed, if treatment options were described in survival rates, people more preferred the risky option, compared with described in mortality rates (t = 2.09, P = 0.039). Table 5 described the effect of number size framing. The results revealed that the number size framing effect was significant in medical situation (t = -7.5, P < 0.001).

Table 3

QuestionnaireMean Response a
Positive: There are 600 critically ill patients in one hospital. Two rescue programs are under consideration. If program A is adopted, 200 patients will be saved If program B is adopted, there is a 13 chance that all patients will be saved and there is 2/3 chance that none will be saved. Which program will you choose?2.94 ± 1.46
Negative: There are 600 critically ill patients in one hospital. Two rescue programs are under consideration. If program A is adopted, 400 patients will die If program B is adopted, there is a 1/3 chance that none of the patients will die and there is 2/3 chance that all will die Which program will you choose? 3.84 ± 1.82

a Response was made from 𠇁” means “surely choose A” to 𠇆” means “surely choose B”

Table 4

QuestionnaireMean Response a
Positive: Imagine one of your relatives was diagnosed with a cancer that must be treated. His choices are as follows: Surgery: Of 100 people having surgery, 50 live through the operation, and 40 are alive at the end of five years. Radiation therapy: Of 100 people having radiation therapy, all live through the treatment, and 20 are alive at the end of five years. Which treatment would you advise him to choose?3.22 ± 1.40
Negative: Imagine one of your relatives was diagnosed with a cancer that must be treated. His choices are as follows: Surgery: Of 100 people having surgery, 50 die because of the operation and 10 of the 50 survivals die by the end of five years. Radiation therapy: Of 100 people having radiation therapy, none die during the treatment, and 80 die by the end of five years. Which treatment would you advise him to choose? 2.68 ± 1.17

a Response was made from 𠇁” means “surely choose radiation therapy” to 𠇆” means “surely choose surgery”

Table 5

QuestionnaireMean Response a
Framing 1: Eye surgery may lead to two potential sequelas: one is a minor decline of visual acuity and the other is keratitis. Imagine you will take this kind of surgery and two doctors’ medical records revealed that: Doctor A: Of 200 patients, 191 were not found postoperative visual acuity declined but 3 suffered from keratitis Doctor B: Of 200 patients, 198 were not found postoperative visual acuity declined but 10 suffered from keratitis. Which doctor you will choose? 2.18 ± 1.22
Framing 2: Eye surgery may lead to two potential sequelas: one is a minor decline of visual acuity and the other is keratitis. Imagine you will take this kind of surgery and two doctors’ medical records revealed that: Doctor A: Of 200 patients, 197 didn’t suffer from keratitis but 9 were found visual acuity declined. Doctor B: Of 200 patients, 190 didn’t suffer from keratitis but 2 were found visual acuity declined. Which doctor you will choose? 4.14 ± 1.39

a Response was made from 𠇁” means “surely choose doctor A” to 𠇆” means “surely choose doctor B”

Figure 1 presented the five framing effects. Then we analyzed the effect size of the five types of framing effect. Effect size (ES) is a name given to a family of indices that measure the magnitude of a treatment effect. Unlike significance tests, these indices are independent of sample size. The bigger effect size demonstrates the stronger effect or phenomenon. In the current study, the index of Cohen d was chosen, which could be expressed in formulas as d = (-)/σpooled. σpooled is the pooled standard deviation of two comparing sets of data. Table 6 presented the Cohen d of the five types of framing effects. According to Cohen’s study, the usual standards of small, medium and big effect sizes presenting in the Cohen d were respectively 0.4, 0.5, and 0.8 (15). Thus the goal framing effect reflected a small effect size, and attribute and risky choice framing effects were medium effect size and number size framing effect appeared a big effect size.

Table 6

Framing TypeAttributeGoalRisky Choice (Equivalent)Risky Choice (Not Equivalent)Number Size
Cohen d0.640.400.520.421.21

A nickname reflects how others view the person named and comes to mirror how that person sees himself/herself. Nicknames can affect a child's self-esteem positively or negatively. Care-givers should observe the group dynamics, how the child responds to a nickname and whether the name-givers are bullying or covering up feelings of inferiority.

nickname, given name, image, self-esteem, derogatory, flattering, group dynamics

Pals called one of my friends "Mini-Arab" and later "Mini." (He had Middle Eastern parents and was shorter than his brother.) My friend Angela was called "Angie" Edgar was called "Bud," probably to differentiate him from his father who was also Edgar Norman was "Buster" relating to his husky size and my nickname was "Wheaties," which referred to the cereal advertised as "the breakfast of champions," because I was inept at sports, always one of the last to be chosen for a team, and had remarked, to cheer up another rejected classmate, that we didn't eat enough Wheaties. Though at first I didn't like my nickname, I discovered that when a team captain called out, "I'll take Wheaties," I was welcomed to the group with cheers. I felt accepted into the inner circle of friends because of my sense of humour, if not for a talent in sports. But the boy who was called "Piggy" because he was fat, and the girl who was called "Four Eyes" because she wore thick glasses couldn't have felt welcomed into a friendly group. A nickname comes to stand for how we see ourselves. Those derogatory nicknames must have zapped their confidence and self-esteem and been devastating to their development.

The given name parents call their child carries with it stereotypical associations that will last a lifetime. Several studies have researched attributes that are associated with Western given names. Nicknames, on the other hand, reflect how others see the person. Nicknames originate within small groups and become very powerful symbols of how the child is viewed within that circle. Among children, nicknames often form a secret relationship where the nickname is known only within the group (Morgan, 15). When my sister and I did our household chores together, we called each other "Susie." At no other time was this bonding name employed. My friend Joan's father called her "Loraine," the name he had wished to christen her.

Nicknames originate from different points of view: 1) A quality, for example "Sugar" (sweet). 2) An incident, as was the case with "Wheaties." 3) A verbal analogy, in Japan my name Marlene was transposed to "Maagarin," (margarine in Japanese). 4) Physical attributes, "Slim" (tall and thin) or "Noppo" (tall in Japanese). 5) Animal or other associations, Jackie Amos became "Mosquito," and someone with protruding eyes became "Tombo" (Dragon fly in Japanese). 6) A folk or popular character, Donald became "Duck" for Donald Duck, "Genji" (playboy in Japanese). 7) Rhyming words, Harris became "Paris." 8) Adding a suffix or prefix, as "ie" became Jackie. 9) An abbreviation of the name, Daniel became "Dan," Ishikawa became "Ishi." (Japanese). (Morgan, 31-35 120-123)

A study conducted by Albert Mehrabian and Marlena Pierce in 1993 found that "given names were ranked high on the attributes of success and morality and thought more suitable (than nicknames) for business and professional settings. In turn, nicknames were ranked high on the attributes of cheerfulness and popularity." The choice of names people go by is not fixed. A person may use his given name in business settings and use his nickname in social settings.

The name-giver assumes a role of power in the group, and bullies are often quick to take advantage of that position. Nicknames connote a deviation from the usual, and thus they separate those who are in the group and those who are outside the group. Children realize when their nicknames are offensive (Morgan 57). What do children do when they dislike their nickname? Morgan (75) wrote: "They refuse to acknowledge the name, they openly retaliate, and they ignore the difference or try to change their name and presentation." For example, the child may become withdrawn, refuse to participate in the group they may fashion a name for the name-giver, as when the black child nicknamed "Chocolate Drop" began to call the white child "Ice Cream." They accept the name and come to realize that anything you say or hear often enough loses its strangeness and associated stigma. The power of the derogatory name fades as it becomes common, and the name falls from use. The child may realize that the name-giver was assuming power to cover up his feeling of inferiority. The child called "Fatty" may lose weight to fix the impression he makes. In Morgan's examples, Priscilla thought her name sounded snooty, but she wanted to be known as someone fun to be with. She announced that she wanted to be called "Cilla," which to her suggested a girl who was outgoing.

The assigned nickname can be flattering. My grade school friend with long golden curls liked being called "Goldie Locks," and the captain of a track team liked being called "Speed." Morgan (91) wrote that a nickname can give the child confidence. A responder to a study was quoted: "It is pleasant to have a name which I felt I had in some way earned or merited, as opposed to one that you are given at birth."

Parents, teachers and coaches should note each child's reaction to his/her nickname and explore how the child feels about the moniker. They should observe the group dynamics. There is a likelihood that the name-giver may feel inferior and choose to call children around him by derogatory names to make himself feel superior to them. He may be the one with a problem of poor self-image and require help to improve it. Some schools do not allow nicknames. A nickname can have a positive or a negative effect on the child.

Morgan, Jane, O'Neill, Christopher and Harre', Rom (1979). Nicknames: Their Origins and Social Consequences. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London.

Mehrabian, Albert & Piercy, Marlena (1993). "Differences in Positive and Negative Connotations of Nicknames and Given Names." Journal of Psychology, October 1, 1993.