Social Mood Conference | Socionomics Foundation

By Alan Hall | Excerpted from the December 2017 Socionomist


The May 2010 issue of The Socionomist observed a strong correlation between social mood and popular baby names. The July 2011 issue pointed to instances of celebrities giving their children unusual names such as “Apple” and “Bear Blu” during uptrends. The December 2017 issue takes a follow-up look at baby names, which have become a hotter topic with academics. Following are some excerpts from that issue:

Our May 2010 issue reported strong associations between positive social mood and parents’ tendency to give their children unusual names, and negative social mood and parents’ tendency to give their children common names. We surveyed three academic studies in that issue. The first found that “the popularity of unusual names rises and falls rapidly, much like the popularity of fads.” The second suggested to us that “parents choose names much as investors choose stocks.” And the third study’s analysis of commonness-of-name data revealed societal swings from individualism to conformism that allowed us to conclude “social mood governs conformity in naming” babies. …

Those studies’ data have not been updated since, but anecdotal evidence suggests that U.S. and U.K. parents have continued to give their kids unusual names as their societies’ primary stock indexes have trended to new all-time highs. What’s more, researchers and reporters are increasingly taking notice of this trend. …

Common Baby Names Are an Endangered Species

A July 2015 article in the Seattle Times, titled “Seattle baby names: We’re trying harder to stand out,” said, “The percentage of babies given one of the top names has been steadily shrinking over the past few decades.”

In 1980, the three and four most-popular names (for boys and girls, respectively) accounted for about 10 percent of babies born in Washington. In 2013, it took the 13 top boys’ names and the 14 top girls’ names to cover approximately 10 percent of all births in the state. …

One baby name expert has observed a “huge shift away from a desire to fit in and toward a desire to stand out.” She said, “I often have people saying to me, ‘I’m ruling out any name in the top thousand.’” She added that “the diversification in baby naming truly exploded in the mid-1990s” and offered several rationales for why, including, “The Internet encourages people to think of baby names like user names. … Once a name is taken, they think, ‘that’s it — I have to find a new one.’” Socionomic theory suggests it was positive social mood that propelled the diversification of baby names. …


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