Have you ever called out all of your children’s names—and the dog’s—before landing on the right one? It’s a pretty universal experience, and, according to new research from Duke University, it has nothing to do with how similar your kids look (or how old you’re getting).
For the study, published in Memory and Cognition, researchers combined five surveys with more than 1,700 respondents. They found that when a person misnames someone, they usually reach for a name that comes from the same relationship category. So you mix up family members with other family members, or friends with other friends. Rarely, however, do you mix family members names with those of your friends.
You are also more likely to mix up names that sound similar, whether by sharing the same beginning or ending sounds—like Lori and Laura or Chloe and Zoe—or the same phonemes—like John or Bob.
Have a dog? You’re more likely to call someone in your family Rover’s name, too. Surprisingly, this slip-up doesn’t happen for cat or other pet owners.
“Our study does seem to add to evidence about the special relationship between people and dogs,” Samantha Deffler, lead study author, said in a statement. “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.”