Almost everyone has done it one time or another: mix up the names of family members or friends. And so a cognitive scientist whose mother would often call her by her siblings' and even the family dog's name set out to learn why. Reporting in the journal Memory & Cognition, she and colleagues say that we shouldn't blame distraction or exhaustion or some mental failing. It all comes down to the way the human brain catalogs names—we essentially shelve them away in folders based on how well we know and love people. When we mess up a name, it's typically because we inadvertently choose a different one from the same folder. The researchers also found "phonetic similarity between the incorrect name used by the misnamer and the correct name also plays a role in misnaming," though the effect was less pronounced than the category effect.
"It's a normal cognitive glitch," Samantha Deffler tells NPR. And moms, she found, seem especially prone to doing it. Deffler, of Rollins College in Florida, also learned after surveying 1,700 people that 95% of the time a name mixup occurs it's between family members, reports Bustle. Interestingly, researchers also found that the names of people's pet dogs get thrown into the I-love-you-like-family folder, but not their cats or other pets. "Which is probably the realest thing about this study; my mom has called me my dog's name so many times, I've lost count," Laura Beck writes for Cosmopolitan. (At least one judge has ruled that your dogs aren't your kids.)