Science Finally Explains Why We All Mix Up Kids’ Names

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Everyone mixes up kids’ names. When we’re small, our parents constantly call us by our siblings’ names, or even the pets’ names. Then when we’re older we assume it won’t happen to us, but the next thing we know we’re calling, “Close the refrigerator door, Snowball! I mean Michelle.” Now, finally, science has an explanation for why it seems like every parent on Earth calls their kid by the wrong name sometimes.

According to Redbook researches from the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University conducted five studies on the misnaming phenomenon, and they found what we all probably instinctively knew to be true: Misnaming only really happens within very close social groups. You might call your kid by a sibling’s name, but you’re probably not going to accidentally call your kid Robert De Niro, even though that is also a name that you know.

This happens because our brains store similar information close together, in a sort of mental filing system, so when you want to call one kid, your brain might just grab the wrong name out of the “family” file section of your brain. The people we have the strongest attachments to are grouped together, so that’s why we always hear, “Carol-Elizabeth-Winston- Oh just get in here, you!”

Researchers also found that people most often reported being called the wrong name by their mothers, though it does happen with all close social groups so other family members and friends are likely to do it too.

“It’s a totally normal cognitive glitch,” said researcher Samantha Deffler in an interview with NPR.

So when you hear your dad scream your name and all your siblings’ names at once until he finds the one he’s looking for, it’s really just because he loves you all so much. And also because one of you did something bad and is about to get in a whole pile of trouble.