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Why Do You Call People By The Wrong Names?

Study Claims Calling Someone by The Wrong Name Means You Love Them

On one memorable episode of Friends, Ross is at the alter about to marry Emily, when he accidentally calls her 'Rachel.'

Calling someone the wrong name is always a cringe-worthy moment (and doing it at the alter is even worse), but researchers found that this common mistake comes from nothing but love.

Calling someone the wrong name is known as 'misnaming,' and in a study published last year in the journal Memory and Cognition, 1,700 people were asked whether they had ever been misnamed or misnamed others. "We then asked what names were incorrectly used and the relationship between the people—or animals—involved," the authors explained. "Our results confirmed that these errors are common and committed by people of all ages. (Moreover, misnaming does not appear to be an indicator of aging or of the cognitive decline typically associated with Alzheimer's disease.)"

The person most common to commit a misnaming error? A parent, calling their children by the wrong names.

"Our results suggest it is not due to people looking alike, nor is it primarily driven by the similarity of the names involved (e.g. calling Mark "Mike")," the authors explain. "Misnaming typically occurs within a social group: When family members misname other family members, the incorrect names they most often use are names of other people within the family. The same pattern is observed among friends: Friends usually misname each other using the incorrect name of another friend."

Basically, we swap the names of people within the same social groups because we associate them with each other-- and care about them in the same way.

"...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."

So, next time you call your best friend--or even your boyfriend--by the wrong name, there's no need to stress: think of it as another language of love.

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