Today, an item published in the “Journal of Personality and Social Psychology” caught my eye. A team of researchers led by Ruth Mayo found that a sample group was able to pick the correct name of a person nearly forty percent of the time.
According to Mayo’s research, the findings show a noteworthy increase above the chance level of a random guess and the outcome was true even when controlled for age and ethnicity. “We hypothesize that there are stereotypes about names, including how someone with a specific name looks, and these expectations really do affect our facial appearance,” said Mayo.
Now, I didn’t choose my name and I may not even like it but it is mine, and I carry it around with me every day of my life and now, according to Dr. Mayo’s research, I even look like my name.
So what is this about a name?
Did you ever notice that in our regular prayers we refer to the “Name of G-d” and at times even just address “The Name?” And, when referring to G-d in casual talk, we use the name Hashem which literally translates as “the Name” from Hebrew.
A name has two opposite qualities. On one hand, a name does not contain any of the substance of a person not even a single physical cell. It is merely a way to identify the substance that is me. On the other hand, when a person is called by his name the entirety of the person responds both physically and psychologically. And that is why one of the ways to revive a person who has fainted is by calling the person by their name.
Furthermore, a name is only useful when in presence of others who need to identify you. When one is alone, a name has no practical use or meaning. Another interesting aspect of a name is that it alone can be a powerful force as for example merely declaring that something is being said or done in the name of the President can open many doors and have a very consequential impact.
Getting back to G-d, the reason we use the Name of G-d when referring to Him is to emphasize that all of creation is a merely the product of the power of His Name and not His essence. G-d Himself remains unchanged and unaffected by the act of creation and the course of human events that unfold in this world. Despite this, because creation does involve His Name He is able, and does by His own choice, place a value in the actions of man and takes a keen interest and reacts to every last detail of what transpires here below.
So, does G-d look like His Name? I wouldn’t venture a guess. Particularly, since I am not exactly convinced that I look like a Shmuel either.