So This Is Why You Forget People's Names (and How to Remember)

Sophie Miura
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Kirstin Sinclair/Getty Images

Meeting someone for the first time usually follows the same straightforward pattern—you each introduce yourself and exchange pleasentries—so why do some people find it more difficult than others to remember names after that simple encounter? According to Psychologist Dervla Loughnane, there’s a clear explanation—and an easy way to learn to rewire your memory.

“We forget names because we’re not focused on the name. Instead, we’re focused on appraising the person and monitoring the way that we’re presenting ourselves,” she tells Body+Soul. In other words, you’re not being rude, you’re just focusing on trying to make a great first impression, so you aren’t paying attention to the details in the conversation.

Next time you meet someone new, she recommends this simple mental hack. “It’s worth the effort of using some association techniques to cement their name in your gray matter. Try to use the person’s name immediately after you’ve heard it, e.g., so Renée, did you watch Game of Thrones last night?

She also recommends using visual associations. “For example, I recently wanted to remember Renée Brown’s name … so I thought of an old friend named Renée and imagined her in an unflattering brown T-shirt. Try and associate the person’s name with something you’ve learned about them—the more outlandish, the more effective.”

Have you tried this memory hack before? Tell us if it works for you.

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