According to a recent study, we often call people by the wrong name…because we love them. The closer they are to us, the less accurate we are. But it’s all love. Right?
Calling someone the wrong name is such a common, tired phenomenon that it is even a trope in Friends, with Ross calling Emily the wrong name at the altar, and who the fudge cares, shut up about that show, it ended last millennium. The nineties are dead. Calling someone you know by the wrong name is officially known as misnaming. In a study published in the journal Memory and Cognition, 1,700 people were asked if they had committed this macro social suicide.
The answer, of course, was a resounding yes. According to the study, the most common misnaming occurrences happen when a parent, usually the mother, uses the wrong sibling’s name. My own mother called me hey you. Others include children being called the family pet’s name by mistake. Sure, Mum. So why does this happen? Why might this occur? Well, the study believes it comes from a place of love. Misnaming only really occurs within close social networks.
According to the study: “…we store information about a person in a mental semantic network that contains information about other related people, places, and things. When we try to remember something, units in our semantic network are activated; when enough units relevant to a concept are activated, the information reaches a threshold, and we remember it. Through a process called “spreading activation,” other information related to a concept may also be activated—this may lead to errors if incorrect information reaches a threshold and is remembered, such as the name of a loved one.”
Very simply put, your Mum is oft to choose the name of your sibling over you, because she loves you both equally. That, or she had too many kids. The more people in our closest network, the more likely we are to make a similar gaffe.
Another interesting point the study uncovered, is that we accidentally name people our dog a lot. Not any other pet, but always the dog. According to the study “…this was not because the participants who reported this type of misnaming happen to have owned more dogs: They owned approximately the same number of cats as dogs.”
The subtext…dogs are people. Better people than people.
So, next time your Mum calls you “Lassie”, don’t get mad. Just know that the dog is killing it, you aren’t. Don’t be bitter, be better.