"literacy": How the first letter of your last name affects your life

“literacy”
How the first letter of your last name affects your life

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Could a single letter play a role in how successful we are in life? A scientific study says it can.

The letter that is said to have a major impact on our lives is the initial of our last name: according to a scientific study, if it is one of the first letters of the alphabet, we are more likely to do better at school and university.

Conversely, those who always have to wait the longest when calling alphabetically face negative effects. That’s what US researchers Jeffrey Zax and Alexander Cauley found out at the University of Colorado Boulder.

A letter decides – how can that be?

“If your name is at the end of the alphabet, teachers are less likely to identify you as an outstanding student.”

That says economics professor Jeffrey Zax, leader of the study, in a university publication. His research team came to the conclusion after analyzing the data of 3,281 men. The study participants had been surveyed regularly from the time they graduated from high school in 1957 until 2011, and the researchers looked at how well the men had done in school and how successful they were as adults.

The results show that those whose surnames are higher in the alphabet were seen by their teachers in a much more positive light than the rest of the students. To ensure conditions were as level as possible, the team only compared participants with similar IQs and similar grades. “Although they were otherwise alike in every respect, the boy with the first letter at the beginning of the alphabet was much more likely to be informally labeled as an outstanding student by teachers,” says Zax.

Discrimination through literacy

This form of discrimination is called alphabetism in the USA (so it doesn’t mean the ability to read like we do here). The researchers found that a distance of ten letters has a weight of about ten percent when A student with the last name “Morris” is about 10 percent less likely to be considered “outstanding” by a teacher than a classmate with the last name “Brown”.

“The good news is that the effects seem to wear off in your 30s,” says Zax. “We saw them very strongly at the end of high school, during college, and in the first experiences of the job market. They disappeared around the age of 35 and were still absent at 52.” Zax attributes this process to more realistic rating systems: After all, a person’s general ability carries more weight than a letter in their last name.

By the way, it is hardly surprising that a person whose last name begins with “Z” led this study. Zax admits that for the past 15 years he has always called his students alphabetically from back to front: “This is mine small personal blow against the alphabetical injustice.” But in view of his scientific career, this injustice cannot have been too great in his case.

You can read the study at www.colorado.edu

Sar
Bridget

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Deborah Acker

I write epic fantasy; self-published via KDP. Devoted dog mom to my 10 yr old GSD, Shadow! DM not a priority; slow response at best #amwriting #author.

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