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Psychol Sci. 2013 Dec;24(12):2437-44. doi: 10.1177/0956797613494851. Epub 2013 Oct 10.

It pays to be Herr Kaiser: Germans with noble-sounding surnames more often work as managers than as employees.

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1Organizational Behaviour & Information Systems, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge.


In the field study reported here (N = 222,924), we found that Germans with noble-sounding surnames, such as Kaiser ("emperor"), König ("king"), and Fürst ("prince"), more frequently hold managerial positions than Germans with last names that either refer to common everyday occupations, such as Koch ("cook"), Bauer ("farmer"), and Becker/Bäcker ("baker"), or do not refer to any social role. This phenomenon occurs despite the fact that noble-sounding surnames never indicated that the person actually held a noble title. Because of basic properties of associative cognition, the status linked to a name may spill over to its bearer and influence his or her occupational outcomes.


associative processes; organizations; social cognition

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