Articles

It pays to be Herr Kaiser: Germans with noble-sounding surnames more often work as managers

R. SILBERZAHN, Eric Luis UHLMANN

Psychological Science

December 2013, vol. 24, n°12, pp.2437-2444

Departments: Management & Human Resources

Keywords: Associative processes, Organizations, Social cognition


In the field study reported here (N = 222,924), we found that Germans with noble-sounding surnames, such as Kaiser (“emperor”), König (“king”), and Fürst (“prince”), more frequently hold managerial positions than Germans with last names that either refer to common everyday occupations, such as Koch (“cook”), Bauer (“farmer”), and Becker/Bäcker (“baker”), or do not refer to any social role. This phenomenon occurs despite the fact that noble-sounding surnames never indicated that the person actually held a noble title. Because of basic properties of associative cognition, the status linked to a name may spill over to its bearer and influence his or her occupational outcomes


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