If you had to choose between naming your son Maxwell or Michael, which would you pick? If you want to keep the kid out of prison, go with Michael. That's the conclusion of a study in Social Science Quarterly showing that people with unpopular names have a higher risk of criminality than people with popular ones. Researchers compiled a list of all 15,012 names given to boys born in one large state from 1987 to 1991 (the state remained anonymous), then tracked the crimes committed when the boys were adolescents. Boys with popular names (Michael topped the list) committed the fewest. Boys with unpopular ones, like Preston and Alec, committed the most. The study raises cause-and-effect questions: different names are associated with different socioeconomic groups, and that surely plays a role. Still, a large body of work shows that a familiar name leads to greater social acceptance, which leads to greater self-acceptance. And that, this study concludes, leads to better behavior.
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