Trouble remembering names

Is remembering names a problem for you?

Remembering names is a particular problem for me. There’s even a word for it, I’ve recently discovered: it’s called nominal aphasia, or anomic aphasia! Not that I could remember that! I had to look it up – I have some difficulty remembering words generally, you see (particularly names of things, which is one of the meanings of nominal aphasia), but people’s names in particular. This is a big problem for me, because I like words, always have. I love to discover the meanings of them and their derivations. Words have always held a fascination for me, but unfortunately they seem to now, sometimes, be losing some of their clarity and distinct character. Which, of course, is one of the reasons why I decided to build this site.dilbert adds humour to reembering names

Are you really interested?

In ScienceDaily of June 20th, 2012, Richard Harris, professor of psychology at Kansas State University puts forward the idea that it’s not your brain’s problem with names as much as your own. In other words, it’s not a brain problem per se, but a problem with your attitude to names. He says that if you have a problem remembering names, it’s probably due to you not being sufficiently interested in them (or the people they’re attached to).

do you need help remembering names?I can understand this, and I can go along with what he’s saying, to an extent. If you are not particularly interested in a person you’ve just met, you probably won’t remember that person’s name. Your level of interest is crucial. As Harris says, if you need to remember names, because you’re (for example) a politician or a teacher, then you probably won’t have much trouble in the remembering names department. It will become a critical skill for you, and you will find a way to do it, to a greater or lesser extent.

Absorbing information just by being interested

This goes along with what I say in the page I wrote on the subject of attention – to get your memory performing well, you need to be interested in your subject matter, and the more interested you are, the better your memory will probably be. And as Prof. Harris says, he himself had a very clear indication of this some time ago. He surprised some students in the office where he was working by displaying a surprisingly good knowledge of geography (they were playing a game of naming countries, states, capitals, etc).

They didn’t know why he had such an extensive knowledge of geography, and neither did he, till he recalled that he used to collect stamps. In doing so, he’d picked up a great deal of knowledge of geography tangentially. He didn’t study geography, and it wasn’t of any particular interest to him, but since it was intertwined with what he was doing (and interested in!) then the knowledge just flowed in, and stayed.

This was learning without learning! What a sweet thing, to find that you’ve learned stuff you never even studied! If you have an interest, then things associated with that interest will probably drift into your subconscious mind with no struggle at all. So maybe the trick is to find a way to link what you’re studying to something you already know, and are interested in. Of course, every sports fan knows this at some level – they easily remember games, players, even particular moves. The same goes for transfer fees, and dates. In fact, statistics of all kinds to do with their particular sport are absorbed as though into blotting paper.

Remembering names … there’s no quick fix!

remembering names can be awkward, to say the least

Forgetting names constantly can lead to awkwardness and embarrassment. Believe me, I know!

I just wish it was this easy with names … for me, there’s no quick fix, when it comes to names. There really is a physical problem. Some damage has occurred that’s causing the problem and no amount of clever memory tricks seems to get to the bottom of it. It really is a dead zone in there at times, and no amount of struggling to remember a name will help.

Of course, struggling generally doesn’t help anyway, with this particular problem, whether or not you’ve sustained a brain injury. Maybe the best way (unless you just have to come up with the name instantly, for some reason), is to relax and tell yourself that the person’s name will come to you in a minute or so. It often does, so maybe that subtle mental command aimed at your subconscious does the trick, who knows?

Remembering names is achievable … for most people!

As for normal people (you, and everyone else who doesn’t suffer from nominal aphasia!), there are ways of getting round the problem. And it’s not so much an issue of remembering people’s names, as it is of storing the data properly in the first place. Harry Lorayne can meet hundreds of people as they are entering a function, have a few words with each of them individually, and remember the names of each and every one, as he goes on to prove during the evening. He’s using creative memory techniques to link each person to his or her name in such a way that they are locked together virtually permanently.

If you learn how to remember names, and then take the time to make a careful mental note of a person’s name, and additionally try to link the name to that particular person in some inventive and creative way, then the memory will (hopefully) be stored much more securely. Retrieval, therefore, should be a breeze!

Er … that’s the theory, anyway. smiley face!


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