A few years back, on the heels of Kim Kardashian’s ill-fated and short-lived marriage to Kris Humpries, I wrote a post about how their attraction and marriage may be the result of what psychologists refer to as implicit egotism. Essentially, this theory states that people have relatively positive feelings about themselves and that these unconscious preferences extend to things that are associated with the self, like our own name-letter initials. Think about it. Do you have a favorite letter? Is that letter one of your own initials? Well, if it is, you are not alone. Where it gets even more interesting is that this preference may impact a whole array of choices, including who you marry.1 In Kim Kardashian’s case, she may have gravitated towards Kris Humpries, because they both shared the initial K. On an implicit level, this may have activated positive and rewarding feelings. Well, that relationship has come and gone, but in true implicit egotism fashion, Kim has since moved on to marry Kanye, with whom she also shares the initial K!
Interestingly, people rarely realize that implicit preferences (like the fondness felt for their own name-letter initials) shape their decisions. Nonetheless, researchers have been able to show that this matching happens at a rate greater than chance. Having trouble coming up with examples? Well, there’s Justin Timberlake and his wife, Jessica Beil, as well as Jennifer Aniston and her boyfriend, Justin Theroux. Not to mention Anne Hathaway and her husband, Adam Shulman, who share their first initial, and Mila Kunis and her fiancé, Ashton Kuchner, who share their last.
As I mentioned in my earlier post, the impact of implicit egotism isn’t confined to only romantic choices; it may also impact where you live, what you do,2 and more recently, it has been found to influence what you buy.3 That’s right, researchers have found that when a product’s price shares either name-letters or birthday-numbers with a consumer, those consumers show greater purchase intentions. So be wary of prices that are spelled using your initials (e.g., Since my name is Sadie, I should watch out for prices beginning with “S” like sixty dollars) or the numbers in your birthday.
Going back to Kim Kardashian and the seemingly uncanny fact that two of her three husbands have shared name-letter initials, I have to wonder if there is also a link between implicit egotism and narcissism? One does not have to be narcissistic to demonstrate implicit egotism, but if one does have an inflated and grandiose self-concept, would they be more likely to show such unconscious self-preferences? Only time and future research will be able to answer this question. In the meantime, I will wish Kim and Kanye the best. Here’s hoping that, for her, the third time’s a charm!
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1Jones, J. T., Pelham, B. W., Carvallo, M., & Mirenberg, M. C. (2004). How do I love thee? Let me count the Js: Implicit egotism and interpersonal attraction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87, 665–683.
2Pelham, B. W., Mirenberg, M. C., & Jones, J. T. (2002). Why Susie sells seashells by the seashore: Implicit egotism and major life decisions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 469–487.
3Coulter, K. S., & Grewal, D. (2014). Name-letters and birthday-numbers: Implicit egotism effects in pricing. Journal of Marketing, 78, 102-120.
Dr. Sadie Leder-Elder – Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Leder-Elder’s research focuses on how people balance their desires for closeness and protection against rejection, specifically during partner selection, goal negotiation within established romantic relationships, and the experience of romantic love, hurt feelings, and relationship rekindling.