Why You Forget Names Immediately– And How To Remember Them

If you’ve ever met someone new, shook their hand, and then immediately forgotten their name– you are not alone. Charan Ranganath, the director of the Memory and Plasticity Program at the University of California, Davis says the reason we forget a name so fast is likely just because we’re just not that interested. Even if you are interested, you could still forget, as we underestimate the work necessary to remember it. Ranganath says common names may be forgettable because they’re not interesting, or because you know a bunch of people with that name already, and rare names may be easy to recognize but harder to recall. And any new name, common or not, has to find space in your already-crowded brain. Ranganath adds, “You’re not only remembering the name, but you’re remembering the name in relation to a face. Even if you get the information in, which we call encoding, you might not be able to find the information because there’s so much competition between other names and other faces in your memory. People are often overconfident, and they underestimate how hard it will be later on.” To help you remember, Ranganath recommends finding something distinctive about the person or their appearance, and relating it back to their name (for example: John the Jogger.) Also, finding ways to test yourself, even if you’re still talking to the new person, can also be helpful.  If all else fails just remember forgetting names is a common issue.