If you want people to think you’re an intellectual, use your middle initial.
“People’s middle initials have a particular and powerful effect on how people are perceived by others,” say psychologists Wijnand A.P. Van Tilburg of the University of Southampton and Eric R. Igou of the University of Limerick.
“The display of middle initials increases the perceived social status of these people,” they write in the European Journal of Social Psychology, “and (it) positively biases inferences about their intellectual capacity and performance.”
To reach these conclusions, the researchers combined seven studies on middle initials.
In one study, 85 students were asked to read an essay about Einstein’s theory of relativity and rate it on quality. The author of the essay was presented with a range of names:
- David Clark
- David F. Clark
- David F.P. Clark
- David F.P.R. Clark
Which of the names had the highest rating? “David F. Clark” outdid “David Clark,” while “David F.P.R. Clark” received the most raving reviews.
In another study, participants were more eager to join teams with members who used their middle initials. But only for academic competitions — initials proved no advantage for athletic contests.
One possible reason for the middle initial bias: Tilburg and Igou argue that names are often presented formally in intellectual domains, such as psychology journals. You’ll notice that Tilburg and Igou have three initials between them.
“When you receive a letter from a doctor, lawyer, or other high-status professional, he or she probably signed it using a middle initial,” Tom Jacobs writes at Pacific Standard. “Read enough such notes, and an association is made in your mind.”
So if you want your resume to pop, consider including your middle initial.
NOW WATCH: Ideas videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.