Why Names Are Hard To Remember

All are agreed that names are harder to remember than faces. Now, why is this? The answer will help us to strengthen our power over names. First of all, because the aural memory is weaker than the visual, as we have seen for ourselves in the tests which we have made. Second, because you hear the name only once while you see the face frequently. For example, if you should go to a meeting to-morrow night and be introduced to some one you had never seen, you would be introduced probably only once—only once would you hear that name and that for only a fleeting moment, while you might see the face a dozen times during the evening. And if it should happen to be a good-looking young lady, you might glance that way a hundred times and take a time exposure. Every glance working through the law of Repetition would deepen the impression on your memory tablet, to say nothing of the heart impression. So here we find another reason why we remember faces more readily than names. Of course, there are some faces we never can forget. Woodrow Wilson’s favorite limerick refers to such:

“As a beauty, I was never a star There are others more handsome by far But my face, I don’t mind it Because I’m behind it, It’s the people in front that I jar.”


Interest and attention are two of the big factors to be used in solving this problem. Begin to take the same interest in names that you do in faces, and back this up by careful attention. When you meet people, pay attention to the name. Listen consciously for the utterance of the stranger’s name, and give careful heed to the sound of it as it is spoken. Attention paid to new names is a mighty good investment. It proves to be paying attention in a double meaning of the word. Concentration in the beginning will save a lot of trouble later on.


When you meet a stranger, do you carefully size him up as an individual, or are you one of the fellows who say, ” They all look alike to me ” 7 Make a mental picture of the face, first selecting some notable feature for special attention. It may be some point of striking beauty, or it may even be a disfigurement; anything which may be unique or distinctive that makes that face stand out as different from other faces. Every time you meet a stranger say to yourself, ” I’ll know you the next time I see you.” Then the next step will be to associate the name with the face that goes with it. Use any unusual feature as a peg to hang the name on.

A third reason for forgetting names lies in the fact that so often you do not hear the name distinctly, for many people have an abominable habit of mumbling the name in such a way that it cannot be understood, hence you cannot re-member the name, for you never heard it. Be sure that you get the name right, and you will not forget it. When one of these chronic mumblers who talks as if he had some hot mush in his mouth says, ” Mr. Jones, meet Mr. Mnhn,” don’t mumble in reply, ” pleestumeetchy, Mr. Mumhm,” but come right back at him and ask for the name. If necessary, ask the owner for his correct name. He will regard your interest as complimentary. Insist upon getting it and getting it right, then your memory will have a fair chance. Don’t blame yourself for forgetting something you never knew.

But probably the greatest reason of all is the lack of attention. So much for the answer to that question, why we forget names.

The next practical question is how to remember them. This can be done, not by means of tricks, but by intelligently utilizing the principles of memory.

Again, first among these is attention. Have’ a strong and definite purpose in mind to grasp and retain the name of every person you meet. ‘Be prepared to make a good, clear mental impression for your mental photograph. Watch for the name, be on the alert, bring to bear upon that name the full concentration of all your faculties. Eye and ear must both be on the alert to get that name. Organize your faculties to receive it. Get a deep impression. When introduced, focus all your attention on the name, hear it, speak it, write it, see it, taste it, smell it, feel of it with a grip that never lets go, and ten to one you will never forget it.

There are some names which require all the senses in order to do them justice. The saying, ” What is in a name, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet ” is open to question. Personally, I lost faith in that quotation years ago as a student in Chicago, when I met a Polish gentleman named ” Kus-a-kow-skinsky.”

Some names like some faces can never be for-gotten. For example—” Toothaker,” the dentist. We can all sympathize with the old lady who concluded that her deafness was growing decidedly worse when she was introduced to Mr. Turnipseed.






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