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No. 108: Nov-Dec 1996

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Nominative Determinism

We can no longer resist passing along this very important anomaly, which in essence is the human compulsion to take up a profession described by his or her surname. No less an authority than C. Jung wondered about this common phenomenon in his classic Synchronicity; An Acausal Connecting Principle. He noted, for example, that Herr Feist (Mr. Stout) was the food minister and Herr Rosstauscher (Mr. Horsetrader) was a lawyer. He mused:

"Are these whimsicalities of chance, or the suggestive effects of the name, as Stekel seems to suggest, or are they 'meaningful coincidences'?"

Jung never answered his own question.

The British New Scientist, in its "Feedback" column, has since tackled this enigmatic phenomenon many times. Nominative determinism was introduced first in 1994, when it was remarked that a paper on incontinence in the British Journal of Urology was authored by J.W. Splatt and D. Weedon!

New Scientist readers added many more examples, proving just how powerful this psychological force really is.

"The head of planning for British Airways is Rod Muddle...Frances Crook is the director of the Howard League for Penal Reform...S.M. Breedlove writes on sexual dimorphism for the Journal of Neuroscience...The US Heritage Foundation's senior researcher on children in foster care is Patrick Fagan...etc. ad infinitum."

(From New Scientist "Feedback" columns of April 20 and June 22, 1996)

Tik-tok, was the most famous thinking machine in the Land of Oz. But is Tik-tok the only robot in the picture? Perhaps there are three!Tik-tok, the famous thinking machine in the Land of Oz

From Science Frontiers #108, NOV-DEC 1996. 1996-2000 William R. Corliss