ROCHESTER -- Do you ever wonder why or how your parents chose your name? It takes some thought, because, unless you go through the hassle of changing it, you're stuck with your name for life. Maybe that's why people turn to resources such as to find out what names are popular and which ones are not. That site lists Charlotte, Oliver and Quinn as 2021's favorites. And the Social Security Administration tops their most popular baby names for 2020 as Olivia and Liam.

A new study from Carnegie Mellon University looks into some of the psychology behind the changing popularity of baby names and it has to do with your desire to fit in and stand out at the same time. You can want both things. They developed a mathematical model that explains how the motives to conform and to be unique interact to produce complex dynamics when people observe each other in a social network.

They use the name Emily as an example of how this works. If Emily is popular, parents might pass on that one and pick a similar one, such as Emma. This strategy helps them pick a name for their baby that's socially acceptable and unique at the same time. And if a lot of parents are all doing the same thing, the name Emily will decrease in popularity and Emma could increase.

So, basically, this study explores ways to explain shifting and unpredictable cultural trends. The paper is published in the journal Psychological Review.

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