Does Name-Dropping Work?

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Wired columnist Eric Barker also runs a small blog where he aggregates interesting conclusions from academic journal studies that apply to daily life. Barker recently asked, "does name-dropping work?" He found an answer in an article titled "Are we known by the company we keep? Effects of name-dropping on first impressions," from the journal Social Influence. Name-dropping, of course, is the practice of trying to impress people by subtly referencing your high-powered connections. The Social Influence journal ran a study to find out if it really impresses people. It turns out it does not. The study concludes:

In our study an individual mentioned his or her association with tennis champion Roger Federer during a get-acquainted conversation. The individual was liked less and perceived as less competent when s/he associated her/himself closely with Roger Federer, and was not perceived as more sporty. Perceived manipulativeness mediated the negative effects of name-dropping on first impressions.

There are two lessons here. The first is that, when you name-drop someone, people pay more attention to the fact that you are name-dropping than to the actual name being dropped. The second is that people consider name-dropping to indicate a lack of actual competence. So, if you believe the journal Social Influence knows what it's talking about, you probably shouldn't name drop.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.