Scientists Have Discovered Why We Sometimes Call People By The Wrong Name

It’s all in the brain.

Have you ever talked to someone you know and completely forgotten their name?

Have you all of a sudden forgotten your own child’s name or called them by other names before you found the right one?

All of us have been through this embarrassing situation, mostly with our family members and good friends. We simply take it as a joke.

However, it can make you think, “Why do I have to run through a list of my kids’ names before I finally get the right one?”

Science states that it’s all about emotions.

Noetics Laboratory, situated at Duke University, consists of current as well as former members that carried out research regarding this phenomenon.

The started off with a basic question: “Why do we so often accidentally call the people we know by the wrong name?”

The researchers published an article in Quartz, where they named this phenomenon of calling someone by a wrong name accidentally, “misnaming.”

Continue reading to understand this psychological phenomenon more.

Wikimedia / Leonardo Dasilva

What these researchers wanted to do was to understand why people call others by the wrong names accidentally.

They used a sample of 1,700 people in the beginning and inquired whether they had ever called others by wrong names.

They also asked what names they had used while accidentally misnaming people and what relationship they held with them.

Pexels / Trinity Kubassek

Without much surprise, they discovered that parents (mostly moms) were the most frequent ones to misname their children by either a sibling’s name or a pet name.

The researchers also found out that the phenomenon of misnaming most commonly exists within social groups, which means that if family members do accidentally call other members by a wrong name, they usually call out the name of someone else in the family, and when friends are caught misnaming someone, they tend to use another friend’s name.


The information stored in our brain is kept in a network.

This means that similar information ends up getting stored in one place.

Thus, at times when we try to gain some of the information, we usually say something that belongs to the same group.

Flickr / Spirit-Fire

Quartz has quite interestingly outlined this phenomenon in a simple 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 mom calls you by your sibling’s name because she loves both of you, and associates you with one another.

Pixabay / brankin62

If someone calls you by the wrong name or if you end up going through the same situation, don’t feel bad or angry and realize that even misnaming is a type of love.

Are you in the habit of misnaming people close to you? Let us know in the comments below.

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