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Why we forget names immediately

Many of us have had a Finding Nemo’s Dory moment of being forgetful – especially when meeting someone new. You introduce yourself, politely ask them their name then provide a steadfast reply of “Nice to meet you”. But moments later, you realise you have already forgotten their name or didn’t bother to listen to it.

But why is it that we forget names immediately?

There are many reasons for the social gaffe. Humans are good with recognising faces. The brain is quick to process facial features and make recognition quick, but not so much for remembering names. People need to be interested in making room in their already overloaded brain to retain the name.

To save you from a forgetful faux pas, we list some helpful pointers to memorise a person’s name.

1. Repeat the person’s name

Saying the person’s name out loud may be more effective than just listening to it being said. Become a repeat offender and say their name when talking to them. Just take note from Destiny’s Child smash hit, Say My Name. Saying their name not only grabs the person’s attention but it is a powerful way to remember.

Charan Ranganath, the director of the Memory and Plasticity Program at the University of California told Time that “If you generate something, it’s actually easier to remember than if you just passively take it in,” Ranganath said. “You’re actually learning to immediately see that face and then produce this name.”

2. Remember something distinctive about the person

Make the person stand out from the crowd by making a note of something distinctive about them. It could be their appearance or something that they do. Names are arbitrary, so if you give them a mental nickname, it may help you register it.

Aussies give everything a nickname, so it should be easy to create something that resonates. For instance, if you met someone called Ben who has a love for Mercedes-Benz, you may associate them being Benz.

3. Really listen to them telling you their name

It’s easy to become distracted with your thoughts and the flow of conversation, thinking about how you will respond to really listen to what is actually being said. When it comes to introductions, try to practice shutting out the noise in your head and around you and focus solely on the person – and their name.

4. Find ways to test yourself in conversation

The conversation is flowing; now, it is time to test yourself to make sure you retain their name. Try and quiz yourself by saying their name during the conversation, either almost immediately or moments later.

“The act of actually testing yourself on the name will help you retain it better in the long term,” Ranganath said.

What’s in a name? You will be sure to remember this one. Diesel Motors has announced a momentous new name to celebrate its 80th Anniversary. Introducing, Mercedes-Benz Perth. Now named after the best place on Earth. Perth.

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