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Want people to think you’re smarter?

The late president Harry Truman wasn’t given a middle name at birth. He decided to go by Harry S. Truman because he thought it made him sound more distinguished.

Social science now has his back, if the latest European Journal of Social Psychology is a good guide. A review article looks at seven studies of how people perceive middle initials. It finds very little downside to using that letter.

The authors find, for instance, that a middle initial tacked onto an author’s name on an article “increases positive evaluations,” both of that author’s “writing performance” and his “status.” People generally think writers who use middle initials are smarter and better.

Thus: George F. Kennan, George F. Will, James K. Galbraith, William F. Buckley.

The authors’ names? Eric R. Igou and Wijnand A.P. van Tilburg, two very distinguished-sounding gentlemen indeed.

Jeremy Lott About the author:
Jeremy Lott helped found and manage four publications for the Real Clear Politics family of websites. He is the author of three books and an e-book, as well as the recognized ghostwriter of former Maryland governor Marvin Mandel’s memoirs. Follow him on Twitter @jeremylottdiary
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