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Dublin: 12°C Tuesday 11 May 2021

There's a reason your mam calls you by your siblings' - or dog's - names

“It’s not just random.”

Image: Shutterstock/file404

IF YOU HAVE siblings – or a family dog – you will have been called their name by your mother, father or a grandparent.

There is, however, a reason for it according to a new paper from Duke University in the US, published in the journal Memory and Cognition.

The paper is based on five separate surveys with 1,700 people and found that those slips of the mind are patterned.

“It’s a cognitive mistake we make, which reveals something about who we consider to be in our group,” says Duke psychology and neuroscience professor David Rubin, one of the study authors.

“It’s not just random.”

Many of the patterns didn’t surprise lead author Samantha Deffler, a PhD student at Duke. One did, though.

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.

Deffler says she was surprised how consistent that finding was, and how often it happened.

“I’ll preface this by saying I have cats and I love them,” Deffler says.

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.

“Perhaps because of that, the dog’s name seems to become more integrated with people’s conceptions of their families.”

The paper suggests physical likenesses play less of a role in mix-ups than names that sound alike.

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