My favourite number has always been 7. I was born on the 7th day of the month and I have always considered it a special number to me. I have a natural enjoyment of meeting other people with red hair, and anyone else called Adam is a friend for life….
Which all highlights my own egotism.
It is egotism which tends to attract us to people and things with similarities to us.
I have done it…. I have made friends online with other Adam Eason’s… And you are sure to have read about it or seen it on the news…. Last year, Kelly Hildebrandt was surfing the social networking media phenomenon that is Facebook… She was a tad surprised to come across a man who was also called Kelly Hildebrandt… For the record, I have never found any female Adam Easons…
Kelly and Kelly got in touch with each other, started a friendship and within the space of a year, they were engaged. Do you Kelly Hilderbrandt take this man, Kelly Hilderbrandt to be your lawful wedded husband…?
I think what this story actually reflects is a basic psychological process that happens a fair bit more than we might think. Let me explain…
Implicit egotism refers to the idea that we naturally gravitate toward people, places and things that resemble the self. For example, we strongly prefer the letters in our name and the numbers in our birthdate, as I demonstrated at the beginning today… Of course this is not true of everyone in the entire world and there are exceptions, but if you were to write down your three favourite letters in the alphabet and two favourite numbers without any thought about what I have just written…… I wonder how many of those letters are in your name and how many numbers are in your birthdate…
There are schools of thought that believe that this preference for the letters in our name exists because we write down our names thousands of times over our lifetime, so we are more familiar with those letters in the alphabet, and research shows the more familiar something is, the more we like it.
Where am I going with this today?
Well, this preference for the self drives a lot of our decisions. For example, implicit egotism makes us attracted to people whose names are similar to our own. The Hildebrandts are one rather overt and rare example, aren’t they?
There are also other celebrity couples that fit this mold, including the relationship between Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz and the brief engagement of Paris Hilton to Paris Latsis… Of course there are other factors, but many believe that just a few similar letters is enough to increase attraction.
In a series of studies by John Jones and colleagues, participants were more attracted to people whose surname shared letters with their own surname…. I only ever dated one female with a maiden name beginning with the letter E… And I married her…
Although this may sound hard to believe at first, there are many that believe that we all engage in this process to some degree when looking for a partner. Research does tend to show time and again that the key factor in attraction is similarity – we are attracted to others that share our same values, level of education, past experiences and goals for the future. Essentially, this train of thought leads to the idea that we are trying to date ourselves.
That is not to say that we want an exact clone of ourselves, that would be weird, wouldn’t it? Although this japanese student in the news this week may disagree with me….
A few differences between the other person and you creates interest, intrigue and excitement, but many believe that for the most part, we are looking for someone whose core foundation is identical to our own. And there is nothing necessarily wrong with this approach. It is much easier to maintain a relationship and raise children when both members of a couple see eye to eye.
But implicit egotism doesn’t just influence who we are attracted to, it also influences other life decisions, including our choice of living location (e.g., more likely for Louis to move to St. Louis), our choice of occupation (e.g., more likely for Dennis and Denise to become dentists), and our choice of brand-name products (e.g., more likely that Chris would prefer Coke over Pepsi). It can even affect how students perform in school; students with names that begin with “A” perform better in class than students with names that begin with “D”. I know it sounds crazy…
So, is there anything wrong with the fact that we love ourselves so much? I think like many things in life, Aristotle’s golden mean applies here as well. Too little or too much self-love can be bad. Too little self-love, a.k.a. low self-esteem, is detrimental to ourselves, often resulting in depression and anxiety. But too much self-love leads to narcissism and is instead detrimental to those around us.
For instance, people with high self-esteem are more likely to be bullies and engage in violent crime. Violent criminals often describe themselves as superior to others and their violent assaults are typically in response to a blow to their self-esteem (e.g., insult). That is something that the talk shows and self-help magazines fail to mention whenever they suggest ways to increase your self-esteem.
Apparently, excessive self-love seems to be on the rise in the western world… According to Jean Twenge in the book The Narcissism Epidemic, US college students’ scores on a measure of narcissism rose twice as fast during 2002- 2007 than it had during 1982-2006. This steep incline may well help to explain our society’s recent obsessions with plastic surgery, YouTube, Twitter, sexting, and social networking websites…. Technology advancements can’t survive without people using them enthusiastically and regularly, can they?
Interesting stuff anyway… I am off to speak to all the other Adam Easons at facebook… 😉