Long before anyone knows what we'll really look like, we're given the label we will probably carry for the rest of our lives — our name. But what if your appearance, particularly your face, somehow reflected the name you were given at birth?
A new study suggests that each person's face, insanely enough, could actually be shaped by his or her name.
So that would mean, yes, that Sarah really does look like a Sarah, and that Fred really does look like a Fred. Basically, the new findings could finally give some credence to all those weird, usually seemingly baseless assumptions you might have the first time you hear a new name, as NPR reports.
"We Look Like Our Names: The Manifestation of Name Stereotypes in Facial Appearance" is the name of the the psychology experiment led by researchers at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and published Monday in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Researchers found that when a person was shown a stranger's face, they picked the right name out of five choices about 35 percent of the time. And aside from picking the right name over a third of the time, the study's participants continued to keep matching up faces with the right names through a series of other experiments with varying conditions, according to lead author, Yonat Zwebner.
"We ran more than a dozen studies, and each time we had this feeling like, 'Oh boy, maybe this time it won't work,'" Zwebner, a social psychologist at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, told NPR. "And each time, it worked. That was really surprising."
Drawing those connections led the study's researchers to believe there is a real tie between your name and what you look like. "Together, these studies suggest that facial appearance represents social expectations of how a person with a specific name should look," the study's authors write. "In this way, a social tag may influence one’s facial appearance."
But how exactly are our names shaping our faces? Well, there are a few possibilities according to the study.
For one, an individuals's personality — influenced by the stereotypes of their name and how people have treated them as a result — may actually help shape that person's face. This has happened when, for instance, short-tempered people develop more tense facial muscles than other more relaxed people. This can lead to a particular development of the jaw, and as a result, a certain sort of face, as the study explains.
Other may include genetic influence from a person's parents or how a person styles their hair — "one of the facial features that humans control most," the study states.
Incredibly, people taking part in the study seemed to match up the right names and faces along cultural lines. For example, Israeli and French participants were better able to match up names and faces within their own cultural group, rather than in each other's.
Those findings, along with a computer algorithm that also matched faces and names better than chance probabilities, all go toward the research team's hypothesis that a face might really be a reflection of a name. Or, as the study explains, "...we posit that our facial features may change over the years to eventually represent the expectations of how we should look."
Some psychologists remain somewhat skeptical. Cathy Mondloch, from Canada's Brock University, told NPR that she wanted to see further research to be convinced that other factors, such as other name options being unpopular, aren't at play.
Either way, it might give parents pause before choosing a bizarre moniker for their newborns.