The Actual Reason People Call out Their Ex's Name During Sex

June 10th 2016

Tricia Tongco

One of the most awkward things that can happen during sex is someone calling out the wrong name.

Even if it's never happened to you, it's easy to imagine the embarrassment and confusion that follows for both parties involved. "Who's Kris? There's no Kris here," your forlorn lover replies to your mistake.

Tense questions arise, such as in the case of an ex's name being said, does that mean your partner misses that person?

This type of jealous response is rooted in the notion of "the Freudian slip" (more accurately known as a paraprax). As Psychology Today notes, "Freud thought that these verbal confusions reflected inner thoughts or unconscious feelings and motivations." So it's no wonder that a slip-up like saying the wrong person's name during sex seems to carry so much more weight than a minor gaffe.

However, a recent psychological study has confirmed that calling your spouse or partner the wrong name has less to do with deep, unconscious motives and more to do with how our brains categorize things, including people. Published in the April 2016 issue of the journal "Memory and Cognition," the report described the major underlying reason behind naming errors, also known as "misnaming":

"...familiar individuals are often misnamed with the name of another member of the same semantic category; family members are misnamed with another family member's name and friends are misnamed with another friend's name."

Taking that into consideration, mistakenly calling your current partner by an ex's name doesn't hide some deep longing for a lost love but rather, that your partner and ex are categorized under the same social relationship, i.e. a romantic one.

In their interesting write-up of the study, Psychology Today uses the data to illustrate that accidentally calling, say, your son by the family dog's name proves that you consider the dog as another family member.

Some other interesting findings from the study, led by Samantha Deffler from the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University, were outlined on the university's blog:

  • Physical similarities between people played little to no role.
  • Study participants frequently called other family members by the name of the family pet – but only when the pet was a dog.
  • Names that shared phonemes, or sounds, such as John and Bob, were more likely to be swapped.

With this information in hand, we can't ensure that if this situation arises it won't be any less uncomfortable, but hey, you've got science on your side.

If you'd like to learn more about the study, you can access the full report here.