Some people cannot address others by their name. Greeting a friend with “Hello Lukas” or calling out “Stefanie!” to attract attention does not work. Affected people report anxiety and physical and emotional reactions when trying to say names. These symptoms lead to avoidance behaviours typical of phobias and other fears. Some sufferers have not addressed certain or even any people in their environment by their name for many years. The closer the relationship, the greater these difficulties seem to be, which suggests the influence of learned attachment patterns.

We have begun to call this still largely undocumented phenomenon alexinomia. Alexinomia means “no words for names”.

Our research aims to describe and better understand alexinomy. What is the subjective experience, who is affected by it, why has it not been known so far? What are the effects of alexinomia on the people affected and their environment? How many people are affected, how can alexinomia be diagnosed, what are the neural bases?

Project team

Project lead: 
Ass.-Prof. Thomas Ditye, MRes, PhD

Project members:
Mag. Lisa Welleschik; Univ.-Ass. Natalie Rodax, MSc; Alexis Bergert; Univ.-Prof. Dr. Peter Walla; Univ.-Ass. Sophie Gattermeyer


Qualitative methods in the form of interviews and online analyses are used for the exploratory study of alexinomy and, building on this, a range of quantitative methods (psychometric methods, computer experiments and neurophysiological methods) are used.

Question(s) and hypotheses

1. What is alexinomia: subjective experience; effects on everyday life; avoidance and compensation strategies; vulnerability factors.

2. Prevalence: who is affected and how many people are affected

3. Measurement and diagnosis: development of a method to measure alexinomia and the severity of symptoms

4. Neuronal basis: investigation of the neurophysiological basis of alexinomia with EEG

5. Connection of alexinomia with social anxiety, identity and attachment

6. Effects on relatives

Scientific and practical relevance

This research project has a high degree of novelty. It is a hitherto scientifically undocumented phenomenon. There have been no empirical studies so far.

Project duration


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