We analyze the social mechanisms that shape the popularity rise and fall of the names given to newborn babies. During the initial stage, popularity increases by imitation. As the people with the same name grow in number, however, its usage is inhibited and eventually decays. This process mirrors the dynamics of fashion fads. An activator-inhibitor dynamical model for the interplay of the population bearing a name and the expecting couples wishing to give it to their children provides a satisfactory explanation of historical data from the Canadian province of Quebec during the twentieth century.
Dynamics of fashion: The case of given names
Damian H. Zanette