Calling a family member by the name of the family dog is not unusual

If you’ve ever called a family member by the wrong name, you’re not alone, even if the name you call them is that of the family dog. At least, that’s what a new study suggests.

Researchers at Duke University discovered that “misnaming” follows a predictable pattern and is a cognitive mistake we make with those who share the same relationship category, be it man, woman, or canine. 

The study was published April 22 in Memory & Cognition.

The researchers conducted five separate surveys of more than 1,700 respondents and discovered that in addition to mixing up sibling for sibling and daughter for son, study participants frequently called other family members by the name of the family pet, but only when the pet was a dog. Owners of cats or other pets didn’t commit such slips of the tongue.

“I’ll preface this by saying I have cats and I love them,” said Samantha A. Deffler, lead study author. “But our study does seem to add to evidence about the special relationship between people and dogs. Also, dogs will respond to their names much more than cats, so those names are used more often.”

Phonetic similarity between names helps fuel mix-ups. Names with the same beginning or ending sounds, such as Michael and Mitchell or Joey and Mikey, were more likely to be swapped. So were names that shared phonemes, or sounds, such as John and Bob, which share the same vowel sound.

Photo credit: © iStock/Ridofranz

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