The Most Favored Letter

An amusing bit from, “IS INVESTING ACTUALLY AS EASY AS A-TO-Z?, published May 9 in the Wall Street Journal.

The “A” Team

Companies have long known that a name that starts with A gets attention quicker; that’s why the Yellow Pages have so many A-named locksmiths, exterminators and takeout restaurants. On a grander scale, there are 54 companies in the S&P 500 with names beginning with A—including the newly named Google parent company, Alphabet Inc.—and just three that start with Z.

And in academia, studies show that when the authors of a research paper are listed alphabetically on the report, as they often are, the first author tends to become more famous in the field, with more invitations to be a peer referee and work on conferences, Ms. Itzkowitz says.

The researchers trace this phenomenon to the idea that people tend to be “satisficers,” a word coined from the combination of “satisfy” and “suffice”—meaning people generally are willing to accept something as good enough without doing an exhaustive search to find a better alternative. “People are not computers,” Dr. Itzkowitz says. “They can’t look for every possible option.”

Technology is partly to blame for investors’ alphabetical choices, says Heiko Jacobs, a professor at the University of Mannheim, in Germany, who co-wrote a research paper on letter bias with colleague Alexander Hillert. “In the electronic age, you may rely even more on lists, and the standard sorting scheme is alphabetically,” Dr. Jacobs says. He and Dr. Hillert found that stocks in the top 5% by alphabetical order had 5% to 15% more trading volume.

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