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Why People Insist on Calling Your Kids “the Twins”

Ever notice that friends and family will call your children “the Jamison twins”? No? Just replace your last name for “Jamison” and now tell me — do people refer to your kids that way? Or maybe they’re called “the twins” or “the twinnies.” In my interviews, almost all of the twins did not like to be referred to as such. In later posts, I’ll explore how you can gently inform well-meaning friends and family that your kids prefer to be called by their individual names. For now, I will attempt to answer the question: why do people so easily and automatically refer to your kids as “the twins?”

It is natural for humans to create groups and identify individuals as being part of a group. We are born with a strong drive to categorize everything. It’s part of our evolutionary nature. The mental concept that “all woolly mammoths are dangerous” helped us run when we saw one (rather than pause and wonder about the unique characteristics of this particular mammoth and whether he would make a fine domestic companion). Thousands of psychological studies have confirmed that humans in today’s modern times continue to group and categorize. It’s our way of managing and simplifying the complex world in which we live.

Within social psychology is a concept that humans tend to be “cognitive misers.” Just as a stingy person doesn’t want to spend one penny of his wealth, so, too, do most humans refrain from spending one ounce of mental energy beyond what is absolutely necessary. (The fancy psychologists would say cognitive misers are those “who in the midst of a complex social world engage in heuristic, unsystematic processing to conserve cognitive resources,” but, as a cognitive miser, myself, I offer you the former, less-complicated definition. You’re welcome).

So the cognitive misers that we are, we enjoy the automatic simplification that twins present us. They are from the same family, they have the same last name, and they even have the same birthday! Categorization complete. These two individuals shall be henceforth known in my mind as “the twins.”