To change or not to change

Taking their husband’s last name after marriage-What do most new brides decide?


To change or not to change; to hyphenate or not to hyphenate—as their wedding day approaches, soon-to-be brides may consider these thoughts when it comes to their last name. Though more women are beginning to choose alternatives to taking their husband’s surname (last name), the vast majority continue to adhere to common tradition and change their last name to that of their husbands (1).  In fact, in a recent study only six percent of U.S. born women were found to have unconventional surnames.  That means that over 90 percent or at least 9 out of every 10 women choose to go the traditional route and take their partner's name upon marriage.

Why do women choose a nontraditional surname such as hyphenation, maintaining their birth name, or having two surnames?

Younger women, a larger age difference between spouses and higher educational attainment were all associated with nontraditional last names (1).  Based on this data, the more advanced her degree (master’s, doctorate), the more likely a bride is to choose a nontraditional surname. As these are just associations, the meaning behind these characteristics is still being studied. However, it would make sense that more educated women may be well established in their occupational field and known by colleagues and clients by their original birth name.  Therefore, they would be resistant to changing their last name and having to reestablish this name recognition.

So, what do people really think when they encounter a women with a nontraditional last name?

Research shows that college students do view women with hyphenated names differently than those with traditional last names, but not necessarily in a negative way. These women are viewed as friendlier, more good-natured, industrious and intellectually curious. They are also seen as more likely to be well educated and to have a career (2). Lastly, they are viewed as more agenic-or likely to act independently and make their own decisions versus communal (3).

What last name is given to the children, if the mother's last name is different than the father's?

It was found that about 90% of women with a different last name than their husbands still chose to give their children their husbands last name (4). Thus, even though they choose to take a nontraditional surname, they choose to remain consistent with tradition when choosing a last name for their children.

1. Gooding, G. E., Krieder, R. M. (2010). Women’s marital naming choices in a nationally representative sample. Journal of Family Issues 31(5), 681-701.

2. Forbes, G. B., Adams-Curtis, L. E. White K. B.  and Hamm, N. R. (2002). Perceptions of Married Women and Married Men with Hyphenated Surnames. Sex Roles 46(5-6), 167-175.

3. Claire E. Etaugh, Judith S. Bridges, Myra Cummings-Hill and Joseph Cohen. (1999). Names can never hurt me?'' : The effects of surname use on perceptions of married women.  Women of Psychology Quarterly 23, 819-823.

4.  Johnson, D. R., Scheuble, L. K. (2002). What should we call our kids? Choosing children’s surnames when parents’ last names differ.  The Social Science Journal 39(3), 419-429.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Are you looking smart in your new glasses? An examination of glasses and intelligence.

With the entrance of Sarah Palin onto the national political scene came an unusual question; does Sarah Palin truly need corrective lenses or does she wear glasses unnecessarily to appear smarter?  Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum between liberalism and conservatism, the buzz surrounding Palin’s “real” or “fake” glasses brings up some interesting questions.

Do we view people who wear glasses as smarter (more intelligent) than those who do not?


Scientific research has shown that we do perceive people who wear glasses as more intelligent when compared to those who do not wear glasses (1,2) (As an aside, we also view people who wear glasses as more competent (3), and more industrious (1,2).   Furthermore, even young children believe that other children appear smarter when wearing glasses (4), not to mention more honest as well (4).

Is it true? In television, movies, and even cartoons, the smart character is often portrayed wearing glasses.  Have we been conditioned as a society to view people who wear glasses as smarter through all of these media outlets or is there actually truth behind this assumption?

Are people who wear glasses smarter on average than those who do not?

Studies have shown a correlation between myopia (nearsightedness) and intelligence (5, 6). Though there does appear to be some sort of connection, the issue continues to be debated by experts studying the relationship. Is it that there is some genetic link that leads people to develop myopia and also greater intelligence? Or could this difference be attributed to something in the environment? An opposing theory is that more intelligent people engage in activities more frequently that can affect eyesight. For instance, do intelligent people spend more time reading and develop myopia as a result? These questions continue to arise as the topic is explored further in the research. So, it seems, there may be something to the image of the class whiz kid wearing glasses. We just are not sure quite yet of how to characterize the connection.

Does wearing glasses make someone feel smarter?

In light of all of these findings, is it possible to feel smarter by just putting on a pair of glasses? It seems so. Research has shown that when wearing glasses people think they perform better on tests of intelligence than when not wearing glasses (7). People also describe themselves as more scholarly and competent when wearing glasses (7).

The bottom line  .  . . You may be looking quite smart in your new pair of glasses and not just from a fashion perspective.


1. Thornton, G. (1943). The effect upon judgments of personality traits of varying a single factor in a photograph. Journal of Social Psychology 18, 127–148.

2. Thornton, G. (1944). The effect of wearing glasses upon judgments of personality traits of persons seen briefly. Journal of Applied Psychology, 28, 203–207.

3. Terry, R. L. and Krantz, J. H. (1993). Dimensions of trait attributions associated with eyeglasses, men’s facial hair, and women’s hair length. Journal of Applied Social Psychology 23, 1757– 1769.

4. Walline, J. J., Sinnott, L.. Johnson, E.D. Ticak, A. Jones, S. L., Jones L. A, What do kids think about kids in eyeglasses? Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics: The Journal Of The British College Of Ophthalmic Opticians (Optometrists) May, 28 (3), 218-24.

5. Cohn, S. J.  Cohn, C. M. G, Jensen, A. R. (1988). Myopia and intelligence: a pleiotropic relationship? Human Genetics, 80 (1), 53-58.

6. Rosner, M., & Belkin, M. (1987). Intelligence, education, and myopia in males. Archives of Ophthalmology, 105, 1508-1511.

7. Kellerman, J. M., Laird, J.D. (1982). The effect of appearance on self-perceptions.  Journal of Personality, 50(3), 296-316.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.