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Use your middle initial. Appear smarter.

October 31, 2014 Filed under Blog, Featured, Writing 

5329634519_e251de2f09_zA coauthor on a paper and I ended up discussing whether scientists should use their middle initial on a paper.

An article entitled “The impact of middle names: Middle name initials enhance evaluations of intellectual performance” in the European Journal of Social Psychology addresses this issue.

The abstract reads:

Middle name initials often appear in formal contexts, especially when people refer to intellectual achievements. On the basis of this common link, the display of middle initials increases positive evaluations of people’s intellectual capacities and achievements. We document this effect in seven studies: Middle initials in authors’ names increased the evaluation of their writing performance (Study 1), and middle initials increased perceptions of status (Studies 2 and 4). Moreover, the middle initials effect was specific to intellectual performance (Studies 3 and 6), and it was mediated by perceived status (Studies 5–7). Besides supporting our hypotheses, the results of these studies yield important implication for everyday life.

A practical reason of why I use my middle initial is that there are a lot of scientists who publish with the name David Schultz (all in other disciplines, so far!). So, the M. helps distinguish me when you do a web search on my name. Whether or not that makes me seem more impressive, I don’t know.

With the publishing industry getting behind ORCID, perhaps this confusion will no longer be a problem. It’s not mandatory yet, but eventually having an ORCID number will be like having a social security number.

(Image Source: Medieval Alphabets and Initials.
Flickr/Cesar Ojeda)

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5 Responses to “Use your middle initial. Appear smarter.”
  1. Brian Curran says:

    I am called by my middle name. Only the government and my mother call me by my first name, Edward. Recall that Dave Rust was formally published as W. David Rust. So, for me, I write out E. B. Curran on everything, we discussed the Edward thing earlier, and most everybody knows me as Brian. Only my friends may call me “bc”. 🙂

  2. Of course, some of us have no middle name. Should we make one up? “Edwards, R. X., 2014:…” would look rather distinctive in a reference. 🙂

    Meanwhile, since you brought up ORCID, what is your impression of its legitimacy and permanency–or put another way, is it really worth our time?

  3. Prof. David M. Schultz says:

    As far as ORCID goes, yes, several publishers have told me that they believe in five years ORCID will be the way we uniquely identify Roger (no middle initial) Edwards of NOAA/SPC from Roger (no middle initial) Edwards from Bigname University.

  4. Mohamed G. Atia says:

    My full name is Mohamed Ghareb Buomy Atia
    I am about to submit my first paper. I am thinking of putting “Mohamed G. B. Atia” would it be better to put my second middle name initial as there is another researcher named similar to my name.

  5. Prof. David M. Schultz says:


    More specificity in your name can’t hurt, in my opinion. I suppose there could be some downsides, but I think the benefits win. Remember also to get an ORCID account at Having an ORCID account and using it when registering your new submissions to journals is the best way I know of to ensure you get credit for your publications.


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