In Name Only

Can Science Predict Your Baby Name Pick?

Recent research says there's one key factor to baby name popularity.

boy and girl baby names Shutterstock
Could there be some science behind the reason some baby names skyrocket to popularity? (We're looking at you, Sophia and Jacob.)

Researchers at Columbia Business School seem to think so. And their recent research pinpoints one key factor in which names come out on top of the baby name polls: gender. Parents trend toward picking names with "harder" sounds (AKA "voiced" names, which cause the vocal cords to vibrate when you pronounce them), like Jacob, for their sons, and softer-sounding names (AKA "unvoiced" names that don't cause the cords to vibrate), like Sophia, for their daughters. The researchers theorize this tendency stems from stereotypical male/female behaviorial expectations, where parents might expect their boys to be tough, and their girls to be softer and kinder.

It's an intriguing proposition—though one that may not necessarily bear out overall. (My daughters' names would definitely fit under that "harder" umbrella.) But study co-author Adam Galinsky believes this info might be used down the line to predict baby name trends—and may help those of you who aren't so excited about giving your child a name that might then trend up toward the top 10.

The researchers also mentioned the (not-so-surprising trend) toward gender-neutral names, which made me wonder whether their softer/harder name theory bore out in that category. And the results? Not necessarily. Harper, Avery, Aubrey, and Riley are the top girls' unisex names, and they all have "voiced" consonants in them. On the boys' side, it's Jayden, Dylan, Cameron, and Adrian, which are all full of voiced consonants as well. Of course, that could also prove their theory by showing that parents who are looking to raise stronger daughters may give them stronger names to encourage that toughness.

In fact, Galinsky seems to believe larger trends in societal behaviors may impact baby name picks. "Some names might be more common in times when people support or contest traditional gender roles, or where there might be regional differences in support for gender roles," he says.

What do you think? Did you give a lot of weight to how a baby name sounded before you picked it? And did you follow the trend of stronger names for a son, softer ones for your daughter?

If you're still looking for a great baby name, check out our Baby Name Finder or email me at lamilbrand@gmail.com. And don't forget to like In Name Only on Facebook to keep up with the very latest in baby names.