Why We Forget Names and How To Remember Them
I am guilty of this, are you? Maybe this information can help?
Have you ever met someone new, shook their hand, and then immediately forgot their name? I hate that! But it happens a lot to a lot of people.
Charan Ranganath, the director of the Memory and Plasticity Program at the University of California, Davis says the reason we forget a name so fast is likely just because we're just not that interested. Ouch! Busted? Not necessarily. Ranganath says even if you are interested, you could still forget, as we underestimate the work necessary to remember it.
Common names may be forgettable because they're not interesting, or because you know a bunch of people with that name already, while rare names may be easy to recognize but harder to recall. And any new name, common or not, has to find space in your already-crowded brain.
Director Ranganath adds, "You’re not only remembering the name, but you’re remembering the name in relation to a face. Even if you get the information in, which we call encoding, you might not be able to find the information because there’s so much competition between other names and other faces in your memory. People are often overconfident, and they underestimate how hard it will be later on." Ok, I can buy that, but how do we push past all that and get to making the memory?
Ranganath recommends finding something distinctive about the person or their appearance, and relating it back to their name (for example: John the Jogger.) Also, finding ways to test yourself, even if you're still talking to the new person, can also be helpful. If all else fails just remember forgetting names is a common issue.