Want to look smart(er)? Use your middle initial, John Q. Public


If you want people to think you're an intellectual, consider using your middle initial.

Middle initials are often used by presidents – George W. Bush, John F. Kennedy, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Warren G. Harding Ulysses S. Grant, James K. Polk – and actors. Think Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly, William H. Macy, George C. Scott and Michael J. Fox, who played Alex P. Keaton. Actors often use middle initials because their union doesn’t allow two performers to use the same name.

The Business Insider has details of a study that suggests that the presence of a middle initial – or two – can enhance your profile to convey intelligence, even among people who haven't met you.

A study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology by two researchers from the U.K. (the initialed professors Eric R. Igou of the University of Limerick and Wijnanc A.P. Van Tilburg of the University of Southhampton) concluded that middle initial can have "...a particular and powerful effect on how people are perceived by others."

The researchers asked study subjects to guess the social status of people with different variations of the same name. They read an essay about Einstein's theory of relativity and rated it on quality. The author’s name was displayed as either David Clark, David F. Clark, David F.P. Clark, or David F.P.R. Clark.

The respondents thought David F. Clark, who scored an average of 5.8, was a better writer than David Clark, who got a 4.92. With a mean score of 6, David F.P.R. Clark was considered the best writer of all.

In another experiment in the study, subjects were invited to join a team whose members were listed either with or without middle initials. Students more often opted for the middle-initials team when the competition hinged on an intellectual pursuit, like a quiz about literature.

The New Republic's review of the study said the authors suspect that the presence of middle initials make people seem smarter because we often see middle initials in prestigious contexts like bylines in academic journals or in correspondence from doctors or lawyers.

Although Johnny B. Goode and Alfred E. Neuman may be the exceptions to the rule.

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