Pregnancy, Babies, Parenting News & Tips

Parents Accidentally Confuse Their Children’s Names More Often When the Names Sound Alike

By Staff Reporter / Jan 13, 2014 09:36 PM EST
  • Parents accidentally confuse their children's names more often when the names sound alike
  • (Photo : Flickr) Parents accidentally confuse their children's names more often when the names sound alike

When choosing baby names, parents often want something that is pleasing to the ear. Some even turn to alliteration when naming multiple children. But according to a new psychology study from The University of Texas at Austin, parents set themselves up for speech errors when they give their children similar-sounding names.

Like Us on Facebook

The findings, published online in December in the peer-reviewed scientific journal PLOS One, show that what many people consider to be "Freudian slips," may be a quirk in the brain's information-retrieval process. The study was authored by Zenzi Griffin, professor of psychology at UT Austin, and Thomas Wangerman, formerly of Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta.

"Because name substitutions are increased by factors like name similarity and physical similarity, they should not be seen as purely Freudian or reflecting preferences for one child over another," Griffin says. "In other words, people shouldn't read too much into the errors."

The researchers conducted online surveys with 334 respondents with one or more siblings. As part of the study, the subjects were asked to rate similarities in appearance and personality with their siblings, as well as the frequency of their parent accidentally transposing their names.

According to the results, participants whose names shared initial (Jamie/Jason) or final (Amanda/Samantha) sounds with a sibling reported that their parents accidentally called them by the wrong name more often than those without such name overlap. This was especially prevalent among younger siblings who were close in age and of the same gender with their siblings. The majority of respondents who reported low rates of name substitutions were first-born siblings, which may be due to their names being used more often, the researchers note.

A subset (121 respondents) reported they were often called by names of other family members. And 20 respondents stated they were called by the name of the family pet. Griffin says this unexpected finding shows how social and situational factors play a role in how parents retrieve names when addressing their child directly.

For example, a mother stands in the kitchen and wants her child to come to dinner. The last time she stood in the kitchen and summoned someone to dinner it was Fluffy the dog. The similarity of the situation and repetition of the words, "come to dinner, Fluffy," primes her to say the dog's name again when calling out to the child.

"It is tempting to attribute such mistakes to the animals' status as family members and child-substitutes," Griffin says. "However, it seems unlikely that parents would make such errors so readily if they were labeling family members in photographs."

Research on speech errors has shown that people commonly substitute words that belong to the same category, but sound nothing alike, such as labeling a couch as a sofa, or a lion as a tiger, Griffin says. And when a word overlaps in meaning and sound (pear/peach), the intended word is more likely to be unintentionally substituted for it's similar-sounding counterpart.

"Although much work has considered how names affect self-identity, social categorization and social interactions, little is known about the consequences of personal name choice on speaking," Griffin says. This study begins to fill the gap."

Provided by University of Texas at Austin

Antibiotics in infancy may be linked to childhood obesity: study

Kids who receive several rounds of antibiotics before age two may be at an increased risk of being overweight by age five, suggests a new study.

Read More »

U.S. military to quickly ramp up Ebola mission in Liberia

A Doctors Without Borders health worker takes off his protective gear under the surveillance of a colleague at a treatment facility for Ebola victims in Monrovia September 29, 2014.

Read More »

World must do more to battle Ebola in West Africa: Obama

1 of 2. Health workers surround an Ebola patient who escaped from quarantine from Monrovia's Elwa hospital, in the centre of Paynesville in this still image taken from a September 1, 2014 video.

Read More »

Health benefits of parkrun stretch well beyond the physical

Participants take part in a parkrun event at Bushy Park in London August 2, 2014.

Read More »

Money talks: Obamacare initiative makes headway in Republican states

A man looks over the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare) signup page on the HealthCare.gov website in New York in this October 2, 2013 photo illustration.

Read More »

Doctor calls for blood donations to treat Liberian Ebola victims

1 of 2. Health workers surround an Ebola patient who escaped from quarantine from Monrovia's Elwa hospital, in the centre of Paynesville in this still image taken from a September 1, 2014 video.

Read More »

U.S. hospitals unprepared to handle Ebola waste

1 of 3. An isolation room at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta is shown in this undated file handout photo courtesy of Emory Hospital.

Read More »

Sierra Leone wraps up three-day Ebola lockdown

An empty street is seen at the start of a three-day national lockdown in Freetown September 19, 2014.

Read More »

Cerner and Athenahealth say integrating with Apple's mobile health service

The Apple logo is pictured at a retail store in the Marina neighborhood in San Francisco, California April 23, 2014.

Read More »

White House calls for task force to tackle antibiotic-resistant bugs

A medical technician prepares samples in the specimen set-up area of the Vanderbilt Clinical Microbiology Lab in Nashville, Tennessee on October 19, 2012.

Read More »

U.N. to deploy Ebola mission as death toll reaches 2,630

1 of 3. Health workers remove the body of Prince Nyentee, a 29-year-old man whom local residents said died of Ebola virus in Monrovia September 11, 2014.

Read More »

IMF says Ebola hits economic growth in West Africa

A fan of Ivory coast holds a sign with a message against Ebola during the 2015 African Nations Cup qualifying soccer match between Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone at the Felix Houphouet Boigny stadium in Abidjan September 6, 2014.

Read More »

Real Time Analytics