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A couple of months ago my wife and I found out we were having a little girl and needed to start thinking seriously about picking some names. After going through a dictionary of names we narrowed it down a (long) shortlist. Interestingly almost every single name on one of the various 'Top Baby Names UK 2017' lists happened to appear on our shortlist. 8 out of the top 10 names below appeared on our list.

I'm assuming that this isn't coincidence and it's probably very common, hence the popularity of the names. What I struggle to understand is where the influence comes from.

I don't read celebrity magazines. I don't have lots of friends with children. None of these names are family tradition. I've never even met people with some of these names and some I've only met who are 80+ years old. Ava being a good example of that, it turns out for the last ten years, completely unbeknownst to me, every woman and her dog have been named Ava.

What is influencing our preferences and why does this convergence happen?

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There are probably a number of factors at play here.

One important contribution to the "snowballing" of trends like this is the mere exposure effect by which things we encounter repeatedly become more attractive to us just because of their familiarity (this is also the logic that underlies ad campaigns that just put the brand or logo all over the place without bothering to associate any particular messaging with it --- just hoping to increase the number of times people see it). Notice how similar the list of names you have are to each other. Repeated sounds (the "ia" ending, the use of nasals and liquids like "l" and "m" in place of harsher stop consonants like "t" or "p").

You (and everyone else) has been encountering names with these components, and these names in particular, increasingly over the last couple years, which make them seem more and more attractive to you.

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It really is quite amazing. As others have said most of this is most likely do to exposure. For instance, characters in TV stories often see spikes in their name afterwards. I don't think people are naming their child after the character, but the name starts to subconsciously stick with them.

For instance, after Violet was one of the characters in The Incredibles the name took off for years: http://www.babynameinstitute.com/Names/Girl/Violet.html

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  • $\begingroup$ Our little girl has been born now and we chose the name Aeris which funnily enough is a name from a well known playstation game in the '90s. As you say she wasn't named after her, it was just a name that I liked and that stuck with me. Slightly worried though now as they are remaking it after all this time and it might take off :) babynameinstitute.com/Names/Girl/Aeris.html $\endgroup$ – Steji Jun 6 '18 at 7:54

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