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.