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The Name Game

The article I chose to look at was “Can Your Name Make You a Criminal” featured in Time Magazine. In this article the topic is of course names. They take a look at a study conducted by David Kalist and Daniel Lee, in which they try to prove the theory that you are more likely to take part in criminal behavior depending on your name. The study states that boys with names like Melvin and Eugene have a certain stigma attached that effect the way an individual sees themselves.

They took a look at all the boys’ names born in a large state and made predictions to see how they turned out. They wanted to see if boys with uncommon names, and names with uncommon spellings such as Patric or Goeffrey would show deviant behavior in the long run. They were proven right; boys with uncommon names were far more likely to wind up delinquents. Kalist and Lee go on to say that the name itself does not cause the crime; it’s the reaction to the name that makes us form an opinion of ones self.

Through social conditioning, people react differently to odd names, and are more likely not to trust a person with one. It’s not something we do consciously, but just what we believe to be true, judging a book by its cover. Is it the boys fault? Kalist and Lee say no, girls are far more likely to be Name 2 named Alice by a mother with more than seventeen years of school, and they state the oddball names are given out more often in lower income, single parent families. The

normal sounding names, are more often given out in homes with both parents, and a more stable financial situation, and parents with less schooling are more likely to pick strange sounding names. Therefore it could be their ascribed status that contributes to the delinquency; there are too many variables to say for sure. Overall leading to normlessness or anomie in the boys with strange sounding names, they are unconsciously seen by others as deviant and therefore begin to see themselves that way and act accordingly.

Through the process of labeling, they are turned into what they are believed to be, because they begin to believe it themselves. The research was done in the educational institution of Shippensburg University, and also utilized court records, and birth records, using the institution of government. While there have been many studies done on names, some concluding that people with more “black” sounding names are more likely to commit crimes, this is the first to include the population as a whole sampling fifteen thousand and twelve names given for a particular year.

Others mentioned in the article seemed to be focusing more on race than the population as a whole. The researchers developed a formula given the most popular name at the time Michael, giving it a score of one hundred. Then based on popularity scored other names down the line Malcom was given a 1. The math then worked itself out, if you picked a name ten percent more popular than the bottom of the list, the boy was 3. 7% less likely to be a delinquent. Name 3

From this one short article we see many elements of Sociology, going to show that it is used all the time in nearly everything. It’s hard to put a finger on the amount pushed through our daily lives. We learn from this article that even though you can’t judge a book by its cover, we often do. Name 4 Sources Cloud, J. (2009, January). Can Your Name Make You a Criminal. Time Magazine, Retrieved February 2, 2009 from http://www. time. com/time/health/article/ 0,8599,1874955,00. html

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