Why We Mix Up Names

New research explains why your mom is so keen on calling you by the dog’s name.

If your mom has ever beckoned you using the dog’s name, don’t be offended — it may just demonstrate how much she loves you, according to new research published in Memory & Cognition.

Inspired by her experience with this phenomenon as a child, Samantha Deffler, a cognitive scientist at Rollins College, decided to study what she calls a “normal cognitive glitch,” and why it especially occurs in mothers.

Image courtesy of Unsplash

Deffler surveyed 1,700 people of all ages and discovered that although calling someone by the wrong name happens often, the mixup is not related to memory; rather, it’s related to the way our brain categorizes and stores names. The brain groups the names of our friends and loved ones, including dogs — but no other family pets! — into a special folder.

When we dive into this “folder” to retrieve a name, we have access to all the other names we’ve stored in there, as well. As cognitive scientist Neil Mulligan told NPR, “as you are preparing to produce the utterance, you’re activating not just their name, but competing names,” as well.

Read more on NPR.