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How to Memorize Names and Faces of Strangers

Updated on September 1, 2013

The More Memorable The Face Is, The Easier The Name Is To Remember

The eyes catch your attention when you meet this guy! This would most likely be a memorable face.
The eyes catch your attention when you meet this guy! This would most likely be a memorable face. | Source
If the person's face is just a bit on the creepy side, this would also be memorable.
If the person's face is just a bit on the creepy side, this would also be memorable. | Source
Distinguishing characteristics like this huge beard make a person's face more memorable, and it may be easier to remember their name as well.
Distinguishing characteristics like this huge beard make a person's face more memorable, and it may be easier to remember their name as well. | Source
Who could resist a cute little pout like this? Kids names can be just as hard to remember as adult names. Using some of these techniques should help, though.
Who could resist a cute little pout like this? Kids names can be just as hard to remember as adult names. Using some of these techniques should help, though. | Source

The Most Common Thing Most People Forget Is Names of People They Meet

Everyone has something they forget from time to time. Now where did I put those car keys? Where are my glasses?

When they meet new people, especially in social situations, many people claim that they are constantly forgetting the name of the person they have just been introduced to. I am one of those who has trouble remembering the name of someone I just met.

It is such a common thing in so many parts of the world that many people actively look for ways that can help them to remember names of people they have just met. This is an incredibly valuable skill for any business person to have or for entertainers to know. It is also useful for anyone else who wants to be able to remember the names of those they've recently met.

When some people are involved in a social situation, they tend to freeze up. Often they are so concerned with the impression they are making on others that when they are introduced to someone, they simply don't even pay attention to the persons name to begin with. I've been in situations with people who have someone introduced to them, then they turn and ask me "what was his/her name again?" They want to see if I happened to catch the name because they didn't.

Many people are socially awkward this way especially when they are in a group situation. They are totally engrossed in thought about how they appear to others. When they are in a conversation with others, they are often thinking in their own mind of what they are going to say to the person in reply to what's being discussed and they sometimes don't even hear what the person has said to them.

Listening skills go hand in hand with the ability to effectively remember a person's name. To be able to give someone full attention when they tell you their name is a real skill that is incredibly useful. People like it when someone can listen to their name, and repeat it back to them in a way such as "So, Mark, have you lived here all your life?" It's nice to be able to ask someone a question by prefacing it with their first name. And people whom you have just been introduced to appreciate the fact that you were listening and really did care enough to catch and remember their name.

In the business world, the ability to remember names can be crucial to the success of a business. Someone who is great at remembering names tends to have more success. Clients love the fact that they are remembered, and some value it so much that if a business representative forgets their name, they may even decide to go elsewhere. No business wants that to happen, especially over something as simple as an ability to remember names.

Systems That Help With Remembering Names And Faces ~ And How To Use Them

Remembering names really is a skill that can be learned, and there are two very helpful skills to use that will enable you to do this.

  1. A System Of Observation
  2. A System Of Association

The way the observational system works is by listening to the name you wish to remember, then take that name and break it down into more memorable pieces of information. If you take a name like Ericson for example, you can break the name down into "Eric" and "son" A name like Goldsmith becomes "Gold" and "Smith".

This method works well for names that are multi syllabic, but what about names that are only composed of one syllable? It can also work for these names like Jones, but a name like that will be a little more of an abstract name to memorize. By breaking down a name, you can give it two meanings that, when put together, form the name you are trying to remember.

The main reason for splitting a name up this way is to create a form that is easier for your brain to commit to memory. A phrase of several words that causes an image to come to mind will help your brain to remember the name you are trying to remember. By splitting the person's name into memorable pieces, it causes the human brain to put it into a category, and put the name into a more meaningful form so it becomes easier to remember the name.

Practice is needed for this method of recalling names, and the more one practices, the easier it will become over time. When a person's name is first introduced, the person's full name is in what is known as an abstract form. By dividing the name and giving each section of the name a meaning, putting the sections together help you to group the name into a more memorable form.

How To Use The Association System ~

The next way to help to remember names is by using something known as the Association system. Once a name is broken down into segments and assigned meaning, then the name can be associated with the specific person. To link the name with the person, the easiest way to do this is to pick out a characteristic about the person's face that is very memorable.

The best thing to do is to choose something about their face that you cannot forget, like the eyes, or any other memorable facial feature. It can be a cleft in the chin, a bump on the forehead, large or small mouth, full or very thin lips or any other distinguishable feature that can help you to put the name you have just committed to memory together with the specific person's face.

Features can be chosen and used in a way that is memorable for you, and sometimes a bit of humor helps one to remember a name and put it together with a facial feature. In fact, the more ridiculous you can make the imagery you've chosen to remember the person's name, the easier it will be for you to remember it.

Say you have just met a man named Robert Hedgewick (just to pick out a name, hopefully no real names have been used for this). Any similarities to a real person are purely accidental.

Imagine something like "robber" for the name Robert, imagine him jumping over a hedge trying to escape because he's just stolen something, then imagine that the hedge has caught fire because of the flame from a candle (wick). Say Robert has very bushy eyebrows, imagine those eyebrows as being the hedges he is trying to jump over. Like I said, the more ridiculous the imagery can become, the easier it will be for you to (hopefully) remember it!

I know that remembering names is not an easy thing to do, but it is a skill that can be acquired with practice using these two very effective methods. There are people who have become extremely good at remembering names, to the point where they can meet an entire room full of people and remember most, if not all, of the people's names. Imagine how great it would be to have a skill like this!

The ability to remember names can help you if you ever decide to go into business for yourself or if you are in a career field like teaching where you need to remember not only the names of the children in your charge, but the names of their parents as well. Imagine if you sell real estate how fantastic it would be to have the ability to effectively remember names. Clients will appreciate it, and you will feel a sense of pride and accomplishment as well knowing that you can and most likely will remember the names that you need to remember.

An Interesting Experiment Done In 1971 ~

Remember that practice is the best way to hone the skills of name and facial memory. Remembering faces is something that is processed by the human brain in a totally different way than the ability to remember names and other facts. In fact, tests were done by scientists back in 1971 where people were shown pictures of human faces, snowflakes, and ink blots. They were shown each picture for about three seconds.

Then they were asked how many of the images they could recall. By far, the most people remembered human faces the best. The ink blots came in second place, and the snowflakes were the most difficult for the subjects of this experiment to remember. Recalling faces is a natural part of perception in human beings, much more than remembering abstract designs is.

People's brains are hard wired to remember faces and images, and if one part of a person's brain is somehow damaged, usually other areas of the brain will take over. But this one area of the brain where recognizing human faces is committed to memory is not one of the areas that can be taken over by another area of the brain. Once this area is damaged, it is permanent. In fact, there is a condition known as "Prosopagnosia," and when it occurs, it becomes impossible for a person to remember the faces of other people, even those they love and know very well.

If a person were to receive brain damage to this special area of the brain, by an accident or injury or even by a massive infection of some sort, the ability to remember people's faces would be lost for that person. I can't even begin to imagine how terrible it would be to lose this functional area of the brain and not be able to remember faces.

One of the most important elements to being able to remember people's names is to be able to associate the name with the person's face, by using their most interesting or distinctive facial features. As long as a person is able to use this area of the brain responsible for facial recognition, they can learn to remember people's names more effectively. And this can lead to more success both personally and professionally.


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    • KathyH profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Waukesha, Wisconsin

      Thanks, Graham! :) So glad you stopped by to read and thank you for your comment, I appreciate that! :)

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 

      5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Kathy. Really helpful hub. Thank you.


    • KathyH profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Waukesha, Wisconsin

      Thanks so much, pickles! So glad you enjoyed this, it is hard to remember names sometimes so any tricks we can find to use are helpful (at least they are for me!) Thanks for your sweet comment! :)

    • picklesandrufus profile image


      5 years ago from Virginia Beach, Va

      Really, really good advice. I am so bad at remembering names, so I needed this hub! thanks!!!!!

    • KathyH profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Waukesha, Wisconsin

      Thanks so much, Gypsy! I appreciate you sharing! :) And thank you for your great comment, too. :)

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 

      5 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      Voted up and interesting. Thank you for sharing this informative hub. You are so right sometimes people have faces which you can never forget. Great method of remembering. Passing this on.

    • KathyH profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Waukesha, Wisconsin

      I think a creepy face would be memorable too, Dianna! It must take a lot of practice for you to remember all those new names! Thanks so much for commenting! :)

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      5 years ago

      I do need to practice this method as every few weeks my classes have new students. I believe that a creepy face would be memorable by itself alone.

    • KathyH profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Waukesha, Wisconsin

      You're welcome, hisandhers, so glad you found something useful from this! :) It really is better to repeat the name and try to commit it to memory, but it is a hard skill to really become good at. Thanks so much for reading and commenting, I appreciate that! :)

    • hisandhers profile image


      5 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      Loved this hub! I work a lot with people and it's important to try to remember their names in order to build business relationships with them. My trick is to try and repeat their name almost immediately after they say it, or try to incorporate it into a comment or question, as per your example. Still, it can be a challenge! Thanks for the great tips.

    • KathyH profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Waukesha, Wisconsin

      Thanks, Beckie! I know exactly what you mean! You are in the middle of talking to someone and they say that very line! Been there, done that, got the t-shirt! Ha!! Thanks so much for your great comment! :) I sure appreciate it!

    • KathyH profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Waukesha, Wisconsin

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment, tipstoretireearly! :) That is another great trick! We need anything we can find to help remember names, thanks so much for reading and commenting! :)

    • KathyH profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Waukesha, Wisconsin

      Thanks, Faith, I know exactly what you mean! You look at someone and KNOW that you've met them but have NO recollection of their name! Thanks so much for the great votes and shares, I appreciate that! :)

      You're welcome, newusedcars! :) Glad you found these tips to be helpful, thank you for your comment!

      Thank you for commenting, travmaj! :) I've used the "age" excuse before, but I know that I've always had trouble remembering names, sometimes knowing others are in the same situation helps though! Thanks so much for reading! Much appreciated! :)

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 

      5 years ago from Upstate, New York

      I have observed someone on television practice the association technique and it was very impressive.

      It would come in handy during those times when someone looks familiar but you can't place their name. Then the dreaded question comes after you've stood there conversing with them for five minutes ..."You have no idea who I am, do you?"

    • tipstoretireearly profile image


      5 years ago from New York

      Very helpful tips. Remembering names is so important in both business and personal settings, and this hub should help making that happen. Another trick I use is to simply repeat the name a few times just after I've heard it. That often does the trick too.

    • travmaj profile image


      5 years ago from australia

      Thanks for this hub - much needed by me. I am amazed how I forget names - especially when I've just been introduced. I might confess to 'age' but i've always been the same. Hah - I'll show 'em. Thanks.

    • newusedcarssacram profile image


      5 years ago from Sacramento, CA, U.S.A

      It is useful...Thanks for sharing with all of us.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      5 years ago from southern USA

      Wow, how very helpful, as I can remember a face forever, but then that name just goes out the window sometimes. Thanks for the great tips here.

      Voted Way up and sharing

      God bless. In His Love, Faith Reaper


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