Parents usually consider carefully and at length what name to give to their new new-born children. Recent research shows that given names that increase faster in popularity also decrease faster in popularity. According to survey evidence, parents reason that names that are rapidly increasing in popularity are less likely to have enduring appeal. Hence parents are less likely to choose those names.[*]
This sort of reasoning is relatively sophisticated. Persons concerned about product quality might reason about aggregate sales of the product. Reasoning about the slope of aggregate demand for a product is less common. Concern about inter-personal choice effects (fads) and a long-term horizon for valuing a good favor aggregate, dynamic reasoning in individual choices such as that for children’s names.
The sophistication of reasoning in personal naming sheds some light on the large change in the shape of the given name popularity distribution that begin early in the nineteenth century. Major twentieth-century changes in media have registered little effect in magazine advertising, which is a type of aggregate symbolic distribution. Changes in the information economy early in the nineteenth-century are less obvious. However, sophisticated reasoning about symbolic choices can produce large changes that have relatively obscure relations to aggregate circumstances.
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[*] See Jonah Berger and Gaël Le Mens. 2009. “How adoption speed affects the abandonment of cultural tastes.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, doi:10.1073/pnas.0812647106