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Female-Named Hurricanes More Deadly, But Less Feared

A new study finds that people are slightly less likely to flee an oncoming storm with a feminine name than a masculine one...
June 12, 2014

A new study finds that people are slightly less likely to flee an oncoming storm with a feminine name than a masculine one. This is despite the fact that hurricanes with feminine names turn out to be deadlier in the United States than their more macho-sounding counterparts. Researchers conclude that’s probably because their monikers make people underestimate their danger. In fact, the two deadliest storms to make landfall in the U.S. since 1979, when male names were introduced, were named Katrina and Sandy.

“People are looking for meaning in any information that they receive,” said study co-author Sharon Shavitt, a professor of marketing. “The name of the storm is providing people with irrelevant information that they actually use.” Shavitt said both men and women rated female storms less scary and they both “are likely to believe that women are milder and less aggressive.” Hurricane expert Kerry Emanuel at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) joked that perhaps meteorologists should start using scarier-sounding names for hurricanes, like Jack-the-Ripper or King Kong (both of whom were male).

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