Mistakenly called your child by their sibling’s name? New study says it’s a sign of love

·4 min read

I’m sure it’s happened where you accidentally called your little one by his older’s brother or even the family dog’s name. Much to your amusement and your child’s annoyance, this is actually quite common.

What can you read in this article?

  • What is misnaming?

  • Misnaming is more common with parents and children

  • Why does misnaming happen?

And now, a recent study suggests that this happens because you have more people to love. As it turns out confusing names between children, friends or colleagues is actually quite normal and is natural in your primary social group.

So, it’s only fair if your child is red with fury. However, the next time this happens, do tell him that it is because you really love them both.

What is misnaming?

primary social group
primary social group

Image courtesy: iStock

A study by psychology researchers Samantha A. Deffler, Christin M. Ogle, Cassidy Fox, and David C. Rubin published last October in the journal Memory and Cognition, studied the responses of 1700 people.

During the study, the shared if they had ever been misnamed or if they had ever committed a misnaming. The study calls the phenomenon of accidentally calling someone familiar by the wrong name ‘misnaming’.

The study concluded that misnaming errors are common and committed by people of all ages. However, misnaming was not an indicator of ageing or a pattern associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Misnaming is more common with parents and children

However, misnaming was found to be more common with a parent, most commonly the mother, using the wrong child’s name. There were also incidents where mums called the child by the family pet’s name.

Now, the study says that this does not happen because the names are alike or because the children look alike (unless they are identical twins). The study also finds that physical attributes also have little to do with creating confusion between names.

Instead, misnaming typically occurs within a social group. So, you are more likely to confuse names with another sibling or another even your partner.

More specifically, misnaming will happen only with names from the primary social group. It is your small group of people who come in contact with one another regularly.

Not just family members, but misnaming happens between friends too. This does not mean that Susan is your new best friend, but it does say that Susan is a part of your social group now.


Why does misnaming happen?

Image Source: Pexels

The study explains that our brains store information about a person in a mental semantic network. This contains information about other associated people, places and things.

When we try to remember something, our brain activates the different units in our semantic network. The brain then processes this information in a process called ‘Spreading Activation.’

In this process, not just one person but other information related to that individual is also activated, which could cause confuse you between names.

So while you wanted to call out to your little child Mike, your brain also processed the older sibling’s name and you ended up calling out for Mark instead.

When you called your child by the dog’s name

primary social group
primary social group

Image Source: Pexels

The most surprising aspect of the study was calling your child by the dog’s name. About 41 misnaming-related incidents in the study involved being called by the pet’s name.

In most cases, these incidents specifically involved dogs over other pet animals.

The study says that is more likely since dogs respond more often to their name than cats. So, family members are more likely to call their dogs in the house, which then becomes an integrated part of your primary social group.

Mums, do not feel too guilty about it

We do have to make an interesting observation about this study. While parents misnamed their children, there were no instances of kids misnaming their parents. Possibly because our mind usually does not have an alternative to parents.

Nevertheless, the next time you accidentally call your child by a different name, do not feel too guilty about it. Remember it’s because you love your children equally and your brain is playing the tricks.

So your child has nothing to fear about, especially when it comes to who gets the bigger chunk of the family estate in the will.

However, no matter what, do not take your partner’s best friend’s name in bed. That one, my friend, is completely on you. This study won’t help you there.

Republished with permission from theAsianparent Singapore

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