Monday, February 13, 2012

Faleomavaega: Name May Be Reason for to His Ineffectiveness

There is no question that Faleomavaega has been ineffective in his long stint in Congress. It has been somewhat mystifying because he is reasonably articulate and is well educated, with a law degree from the University of California as part of it. But he has been the master of lost causes and has hardly been able to move a bill through the House to save his life. Well, he did at least get one bill through to save his seat, changing the law to let him win by plurality while multiple opponents divide the anti-Faleomavaega vote.

Now comes a new study that says the ease or difficult of pronouncing one's name may determine how well they do. Faleomavaega is not the delegate's real name. He was born Eni F. Hunkin, Jr. and used that name right up to the time he was elected to Congress. He was Eni Hunkin when he worked on congressional staff, when he was on the American Samoa attorney general's staff and even as lt. governor. But for some bizarre reason, he chose to substitute his chiefly title for his family name when he returned to Washington. He only knows a handful of Republicans and not that many more Democrats either and very few can pronounce the name.

Surely, he would not have had that problem with Hunkin, which is the name is wife and children continue to use. In fact, the media in American Samoa more often refer to him as Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin than Eni Faleomavaega because it is more common for holders of chief titles to use them in front of their given names than to make them their last names. It seems more arrogance than anything else that he would want to force his congressional colleagues and others in Washington to learn to pronounce a long, tricky, Samoan name.

Here is the story that HealthDay News carried last weekend:

SATURDAY, Feb. 11 (HealthDay News) -- The easier your name is to pronounce, the more likely you are to receive promotions at work and make friends, a new study suggests.

Using mock ballots, researchers from the University of Melbourne and New York University's Stern School of Business also found politicians with simple names are more likely to get elected.

"Research findings revealed that the effect is not due merely to the length of a name or how foreign-sounding or unusual it is, but rather how easy it is to pronounce," study author Dr. Simon Laham, from the University of Melbourne, said in a news release from the university.

In conducting the study, researchers took a closer look at how names can influence first impressions and decision-making. They found evidence of a "name pronunciation effect," in which people with easily pronounced names are viewed more positively by others. They noted, however, that most people are not even aware of this bias.

For instance, in a field study of 500 U.S. attorneys those with easy to pronounce names rose up in their firm's ranks faster than their colleagues with more difficult names.

The name bias probably extends to other professions as well, according to study co-leader Adam Alter, from the Stern School of Business. "People simply aren't aware of the subtle impact that names can have on their judgments," he explained in the news release.

The findings, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, could have implications for how bias and discrimination are managed in America, the researchers suggested.

"It's important to appreciate the subtle biases that shape our choices and judgments about others. Such an appreciation may help us de-bias our thinking, leading to fairer, more objective treatment of others," Laham said.

Of course, having a long name has not hurt him at the ballot box. It is not particularly long by Samoan standards nor, obviously, is it unpronounceable in American Samoa. Nevertheless, his mindset is mind-boggling.

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