What Your Name Teaches You About Opportunity
Adam Alter is an Associate Professor of Marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business, with an affiliated appointment in the New York University Psychology Department.
Adam is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces That Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave, which examines how features of the world shape our thoughts and feelings beyond our control. He has also written for the New York Times, New Yorker, Atlantic, WIRED, Slate, Huffington Post, and Popular Science, among other publications. Adam has shared his ideas at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, and with dozens of companies, including Google, Microsoft, Anheuser Busch, Prudential, and Fidelity, and with several design and ad agencies around the world. He is working on his second book, which asks why so many people today are addicted to so many behaviors, from incessant smart phone and internet usage to video game playing and online shopping.
Adam’s academic research focuses on judgment and decision-making and social psychology, with a particular interest in the sometimes surprising effects of subtle cues in the environment on human cognition and behavior. His research has been published widely in academic journals, and featured in dozens of TV, radio and print outlets around the world.
He received his Bachelor of Science (Honors Class 1, University Medal) in Psychology from the University of New South Wales and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Psychology from Princeton University, where he held the Charlotte Elizabeth Procter Honorific Dissertation Fellowship and a Fellowship in the Woodrow Wilson Society of Scholars.
I think one of the keys to success is being quick to respond and that’s been a truism in business for a very, very long time. Opportunities don’t last forever and if you want to seize the opportunity, it’s better to seize it earlier rather than later. And there’s an interesting effect that suggest that if your name – if your surname – your last name – happens to be near the end of the alphabet, you spend such a long time in so many contexts waiting for everyone above you to go first, to be called on first. Maybe in a class or in some other setting where people are using the alphabetical list as the order, the guide to order.
So when there is a new outcome or a new opportunity because you’ve chronically been waiting so long across time, you’re quicker to seize that opportunity. And so there’s some evidence that if you release some free tickets to a concert or something like that and you tell a whole group of people about it that the first responses will tend to come from people who are at the second half of the alphabet – those who’ve chronically had to wait a long time to respond. And so now when this opportunity’s a free for all and in general they chronically respond more quickly because they’ve, in general, been made to wait so long.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock
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