Friday, January 20, 2017

When The Brain Scrambles Names, It's Because You Love Them

Over the year's I have called each one of my children a name that was not their own (even the family dog is not immune to my crazy name calling). I'm pretty sure most of us has had the same experience (with our own parent's calling us every family name but our own). 

Now I seem to have started this mixed up name calling myself. I have no explanation for this until now. I find I am not going crazy, but full of love.....

A very big thank you to NPR (and Samantha Deffler) for this article, and my husband for sharing it with me.


When Samantha Deffler was young, her mother would often call her by her siblings' names — even the dog's name. "Rebecca, Jesse, Molly, Tucker, Samantha," she says.

A lot of people mix up children's names or friends' names, but Deffler is a cognitive scientist at Rollins College, in Winter Park, Fla., and she wanted to find out why it happens. So she did a survey of 1,700 men and women of different ages, and she found that naming mistakes are very common. Most everyone sometimes mixes up the names of family and friends. Her findings were published in the journal Memory & Cognition.

"It's a normal cognitive glitch," Deffler says.

It's not related to a bad memory or to aging, but rather to how the brain categorizes names. It's like having special folders for family names and friends names stored in the brain. When people used the wrong name, overwhelmingly the name that was used was in the same category, Deffler says. It was in the same folder.

And there was one group who was especially prone to the naming mix-ups.

"Moms, especially moms," Deffler says. "Any mom I talked to says, 'You know, I've definitely done this.'"

It works something like this: Say you've got an armful of groceries and you need some quick help from one of your kids. Your brain tries to rapidly retrieve the name from the family folder, but it may end up retrieving a related name instead, says Neil Mulligan, a cognitive scientist at UNC Chapel Hill.

"As you are preparing to produce the utterance, you're activating not just their name, but competing names," he says. You flick through the names of all your other children, stored in the family folder, and sometimes these competing names win.

Like in the classic scene from the TV show, Friends. When Ross says his wedding vows, he is asked to repeat his fiancée's name, Emily. He says his former girlfriend's name Rachel instead.

Now Ross probably had both Rachel's and Emily's names in his mental folder of loved ones and a mental mix-up ensued.

And it's not just human loved ones that are filed together.

"Whatever dog we had at the time would be included in the string along with my sister Rebecca and my brother Jesse," Deffler says.

So your family dog typically gets filed with other family members. This of course sparks the question — what about your family cat?

"You are much more likely to be called the dog's name than you are to be called the cat's name." Deffler says.

This implies that psychologically, we categorize the dog's name along with our family member's names, according to Mulligan.

"And we don't do that with cats' names, apparently, or hamsters' names or other animal names," Mulligan says.

Maybe that's why we call the dog man's best friend.

 NPR Post Health Shots 10_16_2017

Sunday, January 15, 2017

National Awareness Months and More (much More)

So… I’m driving around when I spot a banner… National Eye Care Month.  I think to myself really?  Which makes me think about all the special month designations that I may be missing. (I’m naturally curious about such things.)  Turns out that if you spend the time to investigate monthly national awareness designations you may be surprised to learn that there are quite a lot (more like a plethora) and as you know it’s important to not be unaware of such things. It can affect your life.

For example: January is Be Kind to Food Servers Month. (I went out to dinner last night and had I known, I would have been kinder.) January is also Walk Your Pet Month. (Which my dog will be happy about because I can walk him this month and not wait for August National Dog Appreciation Day.) February is Library Lovers Month (Not to be confused with National Library Week in April.) It is also National Time Management Month. I appreciate this because I can manage my time in the library during the month of February, and I will be sure to wear red on February third - National Wear Red Day.

March is National Ethics Month (which is a good thing because I’m preparing my taxes).  Preparing taxes is not a fun chore for me but having Share a Smile Day will certainly help. National Financial Literacy Month is in April (and since my finances are something only the IRS is likely to read) there are more important things to do. It’s Keep America Beautiful Month. Planning lots of activity on National Arbor and Earth Day will be enjoyable. It is also Pet Owner’s Day. (I’m not sure my dog knows he’s supposed to honor me that day. Or is it the other way around?)

I don’t sleep well most nights but in May I anticipate I will sleep like a baby because it’s Better Sleep Month. It is also Clean Air Month and American Bike Month. (I hear fresh air and exercise help one sleep soundly.) Should I have difficulty falling asleep I can count ducklings (not sheep) because it’s National Duckling Month. As the summer months approach I feel I will have great difficulty in my life. National Great Outdoors Month is in June. This is a good thing because it’s also National Candy Month. (I have a sweet tooth and I also have no self-control what-so-ever.) National Ice Cream Day, National Lollipop Day, National Culinary Month, and National Grilling Month are in July. (Such a month as July can only counter the great activities and healthy habits I practiced in May & June.)  I’ll have to be careful because August is Beach Month and I’ll need to be able to fit into my bathing suit. It’s important to look good the entire month, as well as, on Relaxation Day, having a nice time during National Smile week (not to be confused with Dental Health Month back in February.)

September brings Library Card Sign Up Month (why wasn’t this in February?) I also found out it is College Savings Month What the heck? (Are we required to save up only this month or are other months OK too?) I’ll have to read up for an answer.  It’s good to know that October is National Book Month and therefore, I may be able to find answers then. On the topic of education I’m getting confused as American Education Week is in November and in May is Teacher Appreciation Week. Thankfully enough December brings Safe Toy & Gift Month. (Sounds a little boring to me.) However since the holidays are just around the corner I’m OK with being a little practical before all the excitement begins.

If all these special months, weeks, and days are just too confusing, just do what I plan to do and participate in National Simplify your Life Week.