Many of us suffer from what we might call short-term memory loss, although it may not fit the exact description of that term. It can sometimes be seen in the oddest ways, such as when we are talking to a family member. We are having a perfectly fine conversation and then suddenly, we realised that we can’t think of their name.
The same is also something that many mothers experience when they can’t remember their child’s name. In fact, some of our earliest childhood memories is our mother running through all of our siblings’ names before they finally get to the right one, if they ever get to it at all. As parents, we have probably experienced that situation as well and we tend to laugh it off.
This causes many people to wonder, why do we have to run through a list of names before we get to the right one? As it turns out, science has the answer and they say it involves our emotions.
Members of the Noetic’s Laboratory at Duke University researched this issue. They started with a simple question, why do we often accidentally call the people we know by the wrong name?
An article was published in Quartz, with research explaining that accidentally calling someone you know by the wrong name is a phenomenon known as “misnaming”. You will learn more about this phenomena in the article below:
Researchers wanted to find out why people accidentally called their loved ones by the wrong name. They started with a group of 1700 people and asked them if they had ever been misnamed or if they had misnamed anyone else.
Then they asked what names were accidentally used and the relationship between them and those people.
Believe it or not, parents were the most likely culprits, especially mothers. They would often call their children by a siblings name or sometimes, even the family pet.
Researchers discovered that misnaming occurs typically within social groups. In other words, when family members call each other by the wrong name, they typically use the name of someone else in the family. On the other hand, friends will likely use other friends names.
We use a type of network when we store information in our brain. In essence, that related information is stored in a tight area.
Because of our mental map that groups related information, we sometimes accidentally say the wrong thing from the same grouping when we are trying to retrieve the info.
Quartz explained it in this way.
In this mind map, a mother likely associates her children with one another.
When attempting to retrieve the name of her son, she is more likely to inadvertently select the name of her daughter than the name of a colleague due to the close connections between her children’s names in her semantic network.
In other words, your mum calls you by your sibling’s name because she loves both of you, and associates you with one another.
Instead of getting offended when somebody calls you by the wrong name or embarrassed if you do it, just remember it is a sign of love.
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