The exact implications for the 1988 presidential election remain unclear, but college students asked to recall the names of the Seven Dwarfs in the 1937 Walt Disney film are most likely to remember Sleepy and least likely to remember Bashful.
The students, undergoing a series of memory tests at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore., recalled the dwarfs in the following order of frequency: Sleepy, Dopey, Grumpy, Sneezy, Happy, Doc and Bashful.
One reason, researchers concluded, is that people tend to remember names in groups. They are more likely to recall all the names that end in "y" because they go together.
Name recall -- remembering a name without prompting -- differs from name recognition -- picking the correct name out of a list. The latter is what concerns presidential candidates at this early stage of the campaign.
In a second exercise that tested name recognition, college students saw a list of 27 similar names -- including those of the Seven Dwarfs and 20 others -- and were asked to circle the correct seven. Bashful, who fared poorly in the first test, did fine this time. The list of 27 names included some of the names Disney considered and discarded in making the original film in 1937: Gabby, Jumpy, Sniffy, Puffy, Lazy, Stubby, Shorty, Nifty and Wheezy.
The study, published in 1984, is being reprinted in American Journal of Psychology's current 100th anniversary issue.