Everyone says they’re “horrible with names.” The truth is remembering names isn’t anyone’s strong suit. We never forget a face, but that’s because humans are evolutionary predisposed.
“We are visual creatures,” E. Clea Warburton, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Bristol, told Science Friday in 2013. “Our brain has got more cortex devoted to processing visual information compared to that from our other senses. We are programmed to be encoding and retrieving visual information much more so than auditory information.”
It’s not to say you can’t be great at remember names, however, that takes a bit more effort. I’m sorry to say, if you want to meet people and take names, you’ll have to treat it like you would any skill and practice.
Names take a little brain-hacking to commit to memory, and there are a few examples of people who seemed to have figured out the formula, like hotel concierge Indira Pun.
She says the brain is a muscle, and like any muscle, you need to train and find a technique that pushes it. Her technique:
1. Association: she says she often will take a picture of a person in her mind, taking note of a unique trait, and “[registering] that uniqueness with their name.”
2. Repetition: Pun uses a trick to memorize someone’s name on the spot: use it and use it often. “Everyone likes to hear their name,” she told the New York Times. So, say their name in your mind and out loud to help commit it to memory. This helps bring a piece of information from short-term memory to long-term memory.
It’s all about making connections with a single person and tying it to their name. After all, the more connections a memory has to it, the stronger it becomes, hence why it’s easier to remember the names of our friends and family than complete strangers.
The important thing is to find a technique that works for you, which may require some trial and error and grit. Or we could simply acknowledge that society places unreal expectations on recalling new names and realize it should be socially acceptable to ask for someone’s name upon the first few meetings.