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Why do people mix up names?

Why do we mix up people's names?
Why do we mix up people's names? 03:03

MINNEAPOLIS — Have you ever called someone the wrong name, or maybe you list off each of your kids before you get to the right one? We've all done it. So, why do we mix up names? Good Question.

Bridget Robinson-Riegler is a cognitive psychologist.

"It's not a sign of anything bad. It's just normal," she said. "First of all, names are really hard to remember in general."

We actually don't say names all that often. For example, Robinson-Riegler's doctor, Rhonda.

"When I see her outside of a medical setting, I'm more likely to forget her name, but I'm unlikely to forget she's a doctor," Robinson-Riegler said.

"So I get Dr. Rhonda, but why are we messing our kids' names up? Because I say those a lot," Heather Brown asked.

"That's actually very, very common," Robinson-Riegler said. "It's all based on how we set information up—or how information is represented in our memories.

Our brains group similar people together.

"At least they're associated together and then they compete at the time of retrieval, but it gets worse," Robinson-Riegler said.

We're more likely to confuse names that sound alike, or people who share— or shared—similar roles.

"I say don't break up with someone because they called you the wrong name, you might be missing out on a really good relationship. It's not their fault. It's a cognitive error," Robinson-Riegler said.

Experts say if you're tired or stressed, it can get even worse. That's because when you're feeling that way, your brain has more trouble retrieving information.

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