First Impressions

In 1984, grad student Deborah Linville asked students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to rate the perceived sexiness of 250 female names. Sexiest (on a scale of 1 to 7) were Christine (5.08), Candace (4.92), Cheryl (4.91), Melanie (4.91), Dawn (4.83), Heather (4.83), Jennifer (4.83), Marilyn (4.83), Michelle (4.83), and Susan (4.83). Least sexy were Ethel (1.00), Alma (1.08), Zelda (1.16), Florence (1.5), Mildred (1.5), Myrtle (1.5), Silvana (1.5), Edna (1.66), Eurolinda (1.66), and Elvira (1.69).

Then Linville asked another group of students to play boss and rate the job applications of eight equally qualified women — submitted under particularly sexy and unsexy names.

Men hired and promoted non-sexy applicants much more frequently than women did. Linville concluded that “there is a prejudice toward women applicants based on the degree of sexiness of their names,” perhaps because men particularly expect female managers to possess strengths, such as motivation and decisiveness, that they don’t associate with sexy-sounding names.