Here’s Why You Can’t Remember Anyone’s Name

Meeting someone new and remembering their name is no easy feat for the brain.

As a new AsapSCIENCE video explains, remembering people’s jobs and faces isn’t quite as hard. That’s because individual brain cells are fired in response to faces, and finding out what someone does with their time is interesting for the brain. Names, on the other hand, are relatively meaningless.

Another reason it’s hard to remember names? The “next in life effect.” This is when someone is introducing themselves to you, but you’re more focused on going through the motions of introducing yourself. Or, as the video so gently puts it:

You may just not care. Honestly, you may be at a party in which you’ll never see this person again, or just generally uninterested in forming a new relationship. Simply put, the more interest you have in something, the more likely your brain is to make new connections. As a result, people who enjoy making new relationships are tuned in and focused and barely feel as if their memory is being used or tested.

The Atlantic brings up another good point: A lot of people have the same name, which makes names even more meaningless for the brain.

“[A name] is both completely arbitrary and somewhat familiar (for common names) and ends up neither connecting to what you already know nor standing out as unusual,” Northwestern University psychology professor Paul Reber told The Atlantic. “So you get this funny phenomenon where you can remember lots about a person you recently met — everything except their name (this happens to me all the time).”

So, how can you get better at remember peoples’ names? The AsapSCIENCE guys have some tips in the video above.

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