Number 4 at my birthday
First reported in by Japanese psychologists Shinobu Kitayama and Mayumi Karasawa, the birthday-number effect has been replicated in various countries. It holds across age and gender. The effect is most prominent for numbers over Most people like themselves; the birthday is associated with the self , and hence the numbers in the birthday are preferred, despite the fact that they appear in many other contexts. People who do not like themselves tend not to exhibit the birthday-number effect. A similar effect, the name-letter effect , has been found for letters: people tend to prefer the letters that are part of their name.
The birthday-number effect and the name-letter effect are significantly correlated. In psychological assessments , the Number Preference Task is used to estimate implicit self-esteem. There is some evidence that the effect has implications for real-life decisions.
One lab study revealed an increase in a favourable attitude towards prices when they were secretly manipulated to match subjects' birthday dates, thus resulting in a higher chance of purchase. However a second study using birth year as price did not lead to the same result.
A study of the liking of products found that participants with high self-esteem liked products better if the product names unknowingly involved their birthday number and letters of their name. Some field research into the impact of the birthday-number effect on bigger life decisions e. Throughout history, societies have had numbers they consider special.
Controlled experiments with numbers date back to when the researcher Dietz asked Dutch people to name the first number to come to mind between 0 and All numbers under were submitted at least once and nearly half of the numbers under 1, They showed undergraduate students random numbers and asked them to say quickly whether they liked the number, disliked it, or felt neutral.
The researchers concluded that number fluency predicts number preference: hence multiplication table numbers are preferred over prime numbers. The closely related field of letter-preference research dates back to the s. In , Belgian psychologist Nuttin reported the unexpected finding that people tend to disproportionately prefer, unknowingly, the letters of their own name. The name-letter effect has been replicated in dozens of follow-up studies in different languages , cultures and alphabets , no matter whether participants selected their preferred letter from a random pair, or picked the top six of all letters in the alphabet, or rated each individual letter.
In , researchers Shinobu Kitayama and Mayumi Karasawa observed that studies repeatedly showed that Japanese people do not seek to maintain and enhance their self-esteem , unlike Europeans and Americans. It seemed unlikely to them that Japanese have no positive feelings attached to their selves. They hypothesized that somehow Japanese do not allow these feelings to be detected overtly. To test this, they ran two experiments that hid the aim of assessing self-esteem, measuring instead implicit self-esteem. For the letter experiment, they asked Japanese undergraduate students to rate each of the 45 hiragana , part of the Japanese writing system , according to how much they liked it.
Your Birth Day is at the Core of Your Numerology Chart
The number 49 was chosen as the upper limit to mask the true aim of the study, which 31 being the maximum number of days in a month might have hinted at. Likewise, the number 0 was included for disguise. Participants had to give ratings on a six-point scale, ranging from 1, if they disliked the number very much, to 6, if they liked it very much.
Once done, participants were asked for various demographic data, including their birthdays. Analysis of the letter preference data revealed a name-letter effect: an enhanced liking for letters in the participant's own name. For each number, the researchers first calculated the mean liking by participants who did not have that number in their birthday.
Birthday-number effect - Wikipedia
These means served as a baseline. For each participant 50 relative liking scores were computed between the baseline of a number and the actual preference. The effect was stronger for higher numbers, over 12, than for lower numbers. The effect was weakest for males and their birth month only a 0. Overall, women showed a greater liking for the numbers in their birthday than men did. Kitayama and Karasawa concluded that the patterns in the findings from both experiments were most consistent with the hypothesis that the preference is due to an attachment to the self.
These feelings leak out to stimuli that are closely associated with the self, not just names and birthdates, but also, implicitly, their constituent letters and numbers. The researchers suggested that the effect is stronger for higher numbers because in daily life these numbers are less saturated with other meanings, other than their associations with birthdays. An alternative explanation for the birthday-number effect that had to be tested is mere exposure.
If it were true that the numbers in one's birthday are used disproportionately in one's daily life, then the preference for numbers in one's birthday could simply be a preference for what is most frequent. Zajonc found in his s and s lab studies that familiarity can strongly influence preference, and coined the term "mere exposure effect". Kitayama and Karasawa concluded that Japanese people do indeed have warm feelings towards themselves, just like Americans and Europeans, but that these feelings are masked when explicitly asked for. They speculated that the reason for this masking lies in the Japanese tendency to attend to negative, undesirable features by way of improving the self.
By , Kitayama and Karasawa's original study had been cited in over scientific papers. The first follow-up study looked at cultural differences. In their paper presented at the American Psychological Association 's annual conference in Chicago, in August , they reported the same result: a preference for birthday numbers. They did find a much stronger effect though, which according to the researchers could be due to Americans' tendency towards self-enhancement.
The second follow-up study was done in by Kitayama and Uchida. They sought to investigate the relationship between a person's name-letter effect and his or her birthday-number effect, given that Kitayama and Karasawa had suspected a single driving force behind both.
As they had predicted, Kitayama and Uchida found that within a person the two effects were correlated. In , Bosson, Swann and Pennebaker tested seven measures of implicit self-esteem, including the birthday-number task and name-letter task, and four measures of explicit self-esteem. On average, respondents scored their birthday number 0. When the researchers retested all seven implicit self-esteem measures, the birthday-number task was one of three that produced similar results.
Later studies investigated aspects of the effect.
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Koole, Dijksterhuis, and van Knippenberg sought to explore how automatic the preference process was. They did this with both numbers and letters. They divided participants into two groups. The first group was asked to give quick, intuitive reactions stating preferences for the stimuli.
Birthday Numbers from 1 to 31 and their meanings
The second group was asked to reason why they liked some numbers better than others and to analyse which features of the numbers they liked. They argued that thinking about reasons instigates deliberative overriding of implicit self-esteem effects. Jones, Pelham, Mirenberg, and Hetts investigated how the effect held up under so-called 'threats' to the self. Earlier research by Koole, Smeets, van Knippenberg, and Dijksterhuis had already shown that the name-letter effect is influenced by a perceived threat.
What they found was consistent with previous findings: people who liked themselves a lot liked the numbers in their birthday and the letters of their name even more when an aspect of their self seemed under threat. This is predicted by the theory of unconscious self-enhancement. It can not be explained by mere exposure theory. Nickell, Pederson, and Rossow looked for effects with significant years. They asked 83 undergraduate students to rate, on a scale from 1 to 7, how much they liked the years between and , the months of the year, the seasons, times of day, and even types of pet in an attempt to disguise the aim of the study.
Analysis of the data showed that participants liked the year of their birth much more than the average of the four years after they were born. The researchers also found that the year of high school graduation was also liked better than average. Of the months of the year, the most liked month was the one in which the participants were born. Falk, Heine, Takemura, Zhang and Hsu investigated the validity of implicit self-esteem measures to assess cultural differences. They asked participants from six countries to rate numbers between 1 and They found that in countries where gifts are exchanged on 24 December participants disproportionately preferred the number 24, whereas in countries that do this on 25 December participants preferred In psychological assessments , the birthday-number effect has been exploited to measure implicit self-esteem.
There is no standard method for applying the task. The most commonly used one is a rating task, which involves having participants judge all the numbers under a certain threshold typically over 31 to mask the purpose of assessing connections to dates , indicating how much they like them on a 7-point rating scale. At least six algorithms are in use. In their meta-analysis of the name-letter effect, Stieger, Voracek, and Formann recommend using the ipsatized double-correction algorithm.
Stieger, Voracek, and Formann recommend that the task involve both letter preference and number preference, that it be administered twice, and that the instructions focus on liking rather than attractiveness. Researchers have looked for wider implications of the birthday-number effect on preferences, both inside and outside the lab.