3 simple tricks for remembering people’s names

Do you struggle to remember the names and faces of people you’ve just met? You’re not alone. Fortunately, there are some tricks you can use to boost your memory.

How many times have you been at an event and can’t remember the name of the person you were just introduced to?

It’s an uncomfortable situation that happens to us all, says two-time Australian Memory Champion Anastasia Woolmer.

“When we meet someone new, particularly (in circumstances) where we feel nervous, we often focus more on how we’ll present ourselves and what impression we will make,” Anastasia says.

“Because of that distraction, we don’t focus on a person’s name and any details they share about themselves.”

Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) senior principal research scientist Professor Kaarin Anstey says in a new situation we can be overwhelmed and distracted, making it easy to miss information like a name.

“Often there’s a lot of stimulation and our attention darts all over the place, or we might be introduced to a few new people at the same time and don’t have time to remember their names,” Prof Anstey says.

3 simple memory tricks you to remember names and faces

1. Focus and listen

When a person tells you their name or when you are introduced, make a conscious effort to listen and block out distractions.

“If you’re introduced to a few people at the same time and miss one of the names, you can say: ‘Hello Sam, Mark and Leonie – it’s nice to meet you. And sorry, I didn’t catch your name? Oh, it’s Sandra. It’s nice to meet you Sandra’,” Anastasia says.

2. Repeat, repeat, repeat

During conversation, use the person’s name a few times to lock it in your memory.

“Repeat the name to yourself silently to embed the name, and repeat the name as you talk – ‘Would you like a drink, Peter?’, ‘Goodbye – it was lovely to meet you, Peter’,” Prof Anstey says.

“The more you use their name and think about it, it becomes easier for you to remember.”

3. Focus on a feature

“Trick your memory by connecting a memorable image of the person’s name with a facial feature that stands out – perhaps a large nose, thin lips, or the shape of their chin or eyebrows,” Anastasia says.

“It should be a feature you’d notice if you meet again, and ensure you connect the image that you have made to the feature you have chosen.”

Alternatively, Prof Anstey suggests connecting their name with something familiar.

“Come up with a short phrase to help you remember their name, or associate the name with an image,” she says.

“For example, if they are called Elizabeth, you might picture someone else you know called Elizabeth, or visualise the cover of a favourite book with a character called Elizabeth.

“Build an association or a memory to that name that makes it easier to retrieve later.”

Good with names and faces? Test yourself

Fancy yourself as a super-recogniser?

The University of New South Wales is looking for people with exceptional abilities in identifying faces to take an online quiz as part of a research study.

Take the super-recogniser test.

More memory-boosting tips:

Written by Sarah Marinos.