There's a Scientific Reason You Mix Up Your Kids' Names

We’ve all done it: In a moment of multitasking, like putting away groceries, wrangling a toddler, and trying to plan dinner - or just a brainless moment when you’re not really doing anything - you try to yell out a specific child’s name…and another one, and another, circling back around in a confused muddle of words until you maybe arrive at the right one.

 

Riley-Col-Dil-Har…no…aaahh…YOU! Whatever your name is. Come here!

 

If you’re like me, the dog makes an appearance in the list as well.

 

This name mixup habit is quite common, as parents everywhere can attest. If you had siblings growing up, you can probably recall your mother doing the same thing on a regular basis. Sheez, Mom, you named me, why can’t you get it right?

 

Of course, you now understand how hard this very simple thing actually is. What the heck is wrong with us? Could it be a case of permanent “mom brain”? Maybe a little, since it seems our brains turn to mush sometime during pregnancy and never quite go back to normal, right?

 

Don’t worry - you’re not going crazy!

The more likely reason may be that you’re simply full of love for them! Science says so. Yes, there are studies on this.

 

A scientific review published in Memory & Cognition examined five studies involving over 1,700 participants to get to the bottom of this phenomenon.

 

Researchers found that this misnaming phenomenon occurred when referring to family members and friends, but mostly happened with mothers calling their children the wrong names (no surprise there).

 

There is some evidence suggesting a mixup when the names sound alike (Jade, Kade, Wade). But more often they found an association with their close relationship to each other.

 

“Overall, the misnaming of familiar individuals is driven by the relationship between the misnamer, misnamed, and named,” the study reports. Basically, the closer emotionally you are to someone, the more likely you’ll “forget” their name.

 

So why does this happen?

It’s not because we have a crappy memory. It’s because of the way our brains store information.

 

The brain organizes information in a “semantic network” in which similar things are grouped together. It’s kind of like we have file folders for different categories of people, places, things, and experiences.

 

The people you love most (i.e. family members) are all in one folder, so sometimes saying the right name, even if that person is right in front of you, is difficult. You have to shuffle through the items in the folder until you grab the right one.

 

So your lack of ability in such an easy task doesn’t mean you’re going insane or getting early dementia. (Phew!) It just means you love them enough to put them in a special category in your heart - and brain.

 

But . . why the dog too?

The fact that we often include the dog in the rambling cycle of names goes to show that this creature is certainly an important part of the family. “…our study does seem to add to evidence about the special relationship between people and dogs,” says Samantha Deffler, lead author of the study.

 

So you can stop asking 'what’s wrong with me!?' and rest assured it has more to do with your love for your family and pets than with your declining mental state.

 

Photo: Stock

Adapted from the original published on parent.com with permission to reprint.

 


 

 

 
Share This Story

LJ Kunkel is a mom of 3 who writes about health, fitness and parenting. She keeps her head on straight by working out, getting stuck in yoga poses and hiding all the chocolate.

Our Daily Things to Do email is the easiest way to plan your day.
Follow Us
   
Want daily ideas of things to do? How about special offers & giveaways? Sign up and we’ll handle the rest.
Things to Do

Living in Space
Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Space adventures await at this free, out-of-this world workshop! Kids will complete an important space mission and build a model space station. 

View this event »
Science Storytime with Ready Readers
Wednesday, March 20, 2019
Thursday, March 21, 2019
Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Little ones can enjoy an interactive reading of a science-themed story followed by a related hands-on activity. A different book is featured each week.

View this event »
Water Waddlers Indoor Drop-In Swim
Wednesday, March 20, 2019
Thursday, March 21, 2019

Stop in and have some fun in the indoor pool at the Lodge of Des Peres with your little one at this drop-in swim time for kids up to age 6. No pre-registration is needed; Water Waddlers is open to residents and non-residents of Des Peres.

View this event »
You Might Also Like...

From Our Sponsors
Popular Stories

Sleep-Away Camp: Then and Now

Last summer, I was introduced to the wonders of modern-day sleep-away camp when my daughter spent a week at one for the first time. And let me tell you – these kids have it good. Real good. I went to sleep-away camp too, when I was a kid, and let's just say things have changed. Here are just a few of the differences between then and now.

Continue reading »
The Importance of Traditional Play in a Digital World

Play comes naturally to kids. They use it as a way to express their feelings and learn new things. But in the age of electronics we live in, video games and screens can take over a child’s free time. Screen-free, or traditional play, offers benefits kids just don't get from playing on an iPad or on the latest game console.

Continue reading »
Accumulating Children: A Beginner's Guide

The key to successfully going from one, to two, to three kids is really just learning how to determine whose immediate need is more life-threatening. Plus, you stop judging parents who put their kids on leashes.

Continue reading »
Kids Can Craft a Summer Adventure at Crayola Imagine Arts Academy Camps

A crayon or colored pencil isn’t just a tool for a child to draw. It’s the ignition switch to their imagination—where with every scribble and line they can picture themselves as anyone they want to be, in any world they can dream up. This summer, kids can turn that love of art into a real-life adventure to remember at Crayola® World of Design and Artist’s Passport Camps from Imagine Arts Academy of St. Louis.

Continue reading »
Why I'll Never Stop Forcing My Kids Into the Great Outdoors

I love the outdoors and could easily spend my days gleefully hiking through the countless breathtaking parks we're lucky to have in the St. Louis area. My kids? Not so much – yet.

Continue reading »
Follow Us