Have you ever called your son your sister’s name? Or your brother your BFF’s name? Lucky for you, science now knows why: It’s because you love them.
This type of “cognitive glitch,” as scientists have called it, doesn’t have anything to do with a spotty memory. Instead, it has to do with how the brain stores information. Samantha Deffler, a cognitive scientist at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, says the brain puts all the names of important people in the same place.
She gathered a team and did a research study that revealed the why behind this more-common-than-we-thought mix-up.
It’s like having special folders for family names and friends names stored in the brain. When people used the wrong name, overwhelmingly the name that was used was in the same category, Deffler says. It was in the same folder.
Basically, when your brain is looking for a name, it might open those folders and pull out a name that’s similarly categorized. When it pulls out your niece’s name instead of your nephew’s, consider it a compliment all around.
Does this also work as an excuse for calling our favorite teacher “Mom”? Asking for a friend, of course.
Want more from GoldieBlox? Sign up to get exclusive discounts and Goldie news straight to your inbox.