The Cumulative Impact of Having the Wrong Name

In another universe, Karl Starr has already given a TED talk

Karla Starr
7 min readAug 20, 2022

One of the most disheartening conversations of my life happened at a meetup for science writers at a bar in New York about six years ago. I was venting to a friend, “John,” about not getting a response from a Professor after multiple emails; an interview would have been ideal, but I’d have settled for a PDF of his latest study. I reached out to others in that line of research for a quote, but nothing.

“You didn’t even get the PDF?” he asked.

“Nope. And I mentioned that I was writing a book for Penguin.”

“Huh. Who was this?”

John, who was just “looking around for article ideas,” had also reached out to that same Professor that week.

While I got no response, John got an interview shortly after emailing. 😑

We discussed and estimated that I had to send at least 5 emails to get a response — typically passed off to a lab assistant, grad student, or communications department for booking in the distant future — while he had no problems getting phone time and PDFs that week, if not the same day.

The world needs more stock photos of “frustrated woman” / Photo by Karolina Grabowska

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Karla Starr

Speaker & author x2, inc. Making Numbers Count (w/ Chip Heath). Behavioral science, cultural history, numbers.