A new study has revealed that men are more likely to be called by their surnames – which works to their advantage in professional settings.
After noting that male politicians were much more likely to be called by their last names than their female counterparts, Cornell University psychologist Stav Atir set up a series of experiments to test an age-old question: What’s in a name?
The results revealed that on average both genders are at least twice as likely to refer to men by their surnames than they were women.
Follow-up experiments found that one is more likely to be taken seriously – particularly in scientific fields – when they are referred to by their surname.
A set of experiments by psychologists at Cornell University revealed that men are twice as likely to be referred to by their surname instead of their full name than women are, on average. One common example of this so-called surname bias is the tendency to call mathematician Albert Einstein by his last name while chemist Marie Curie is usually referred to by both names
Atir and colleague Melissa Ferguson began their research by analyzing transcripts of more than 300 political radio programs along with nearly 5,000 professor reviews from students.
In both test groups men were twice as likely to be called by their surname.
In another trial, the researchers provided 184 participants with identical bullet points about fictional chemists Dolores Berson or Douglas Berson and asked to rewrite the information as full sentences.
Participants were found to be four times more likely to refer to Douglas by his surname than they were Dolores.
Several other experiments across the fields of science, literature and politics yielded similar results.
Atir and Ferguson then set out to test the real-world implications of the findings.
They determined that scientists who are known by their surname rather than their full name tend to be seen as more famous and influential.
The final experiment in the study looked at what’s known as the Matthew Effect: the idea that people who are more well-known receive more recognition than lesser-known individuals.
They asked more than 500 participants to rate whether scientists should be granted a $500,000 National Science Foundation award.
Those who were referred to by their surname were 14 percent more likely to be recommended for the award.
Atir suggests that one reason women may be more likely to be called by their full name is because people think it helps them get more recognition.
Her research indicates that this partiality actually does the opposite for a woman’s notoriety.
Overall, the surname bias appears to be one of many that contributes to gender inequality in the workplace.