December 1, 2022

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That's why we forget the names |  News letters

That’s why we forget the names | News letters

The name is often the first information we get about the person we meet. The name is also the first thing we forget.

It leads to embarrassing situations when we meet people whose names we can’t remember. We talk dry as we race through the archives in our brains.

New studies are constantly emerging on name memory. as such Study this year Which showed that deep sleep can make you remember names. Or the study that shows common names are hard to remember — but also rare ones. Or the study where participants received electricity for their brains to remember better.

Regardless of the method, researchers agree that it’s no wonder we forget.

Because the names are completely random. It doesn’t say anything about us as people.

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If everyone named Siv was so skinny and everyone named Bjørn had the shape of a bear, we wouldn’t have such big problems.

But the name Astrid says nothing about the person Astrid.

If you learn that Astrid is a plumber and from Bergen, you will get more associations. Therefore, it is easier for us to remember what people do or where they live than their names, according to research in the field.

Also, names are easy to mix up. You may know many Astrids. Did her name meet Mary or Maria or Mary or Marit? Your new neighbor Peter reminds you of your friend Bear. Then chances are high that you’ll remember Peter as Per, according to a study.

A simple explanation for not remembering names is that we don’t care.

We are not interested enough

You may not be interested in the person you greeted or think that you will never meet them again. That’s why you don’t care about her name. The problem only appears if you meet again.

Don’t forget the names of the people you care about. Like the incredibly handsome guy you meet at a party or the name of your new boss.

If you get excited about remembering names, things will get better. Many of them have occupations where remembering names and faces is important.

Han Selim is one of them.

Motivation to learn names

Solim is a recently retired teacher from Tassen School. For over 40 years, she quickly learned the names of the children she was a communication teacher for, as well as the names of their parents.

– I also learned the names of the children in the other three classes at the same stage.

As a teacher, she had to build a relationship with each student.

I must see students, they must trust me, know that I care and be passionate about learning. Then I had to know the names of the students, says Solomon.

Teacher Hanne Solem had her own tricks for learning student names. Photo: Z-forlag

I learned all the names in the first week.

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– It was absolutely necessary, says Solem to forskning.no.

In order to remember, you have to invest time and focus.

Forget if you are more worried about yourself

Only the focus thing can be a problem. Because when we meet new people, we often get caught up in ourselves. How does my hair look? What do I tell myself?

Gere Selbeck believes that forgetting names has to do with the situation in which you first hear the name. He is a professor and chair of research at the National Center on Aging and Health.

– If you are not allowed to enter names correctly, it will be difficult to remember them afterwards. Maybe you’re at a party and mostly concerned about your appearance. Then don’t focus on the names of the people you meet.

It has an impact on how names are stored, Selbæk tells forskning.no.

One theory as to why older people remember worse names is that their archives have become too large.

Professor Geir Selbeck at the National Center on Aging and Health is himself lousy in the names.  When he should really remember names, he makes a rule where he associates the name with something that connects him to the person.  Professor Geir Selbeck at the National Center on Aging and Health is himself lousy in the names.  When he should really remember names, he makes a rule where he associates the name with something that connects him to the person.  Image: aging and health

Professor Geir Selbeck at the National Center on Aging and Health is himself lousy in the names. When he should really remember names, he makes a rule where he associates the name with something that connects him to the person. Professor Geir Selbeck at the National Center on Aging and Health is himself lousy in the names. When he should really remember names, he makes a rule where he associates the name with something that connects him to the person. Image: aging and health

The more you store, the better you remember

He met a 60-year-old man and kept in his memory many more people than 25-year-olds. So it takes longer to find the right name. But Selbæk does not believe in this theory.

– I don’t think that’s true. Because memory doesn’t work that way in other things. It’s rather that the more you put into your memory, the more you remember, he says.

Because if you are good at learning names, numbers or places, it can help you when you are older. According to Selbeck, a large archive in the brain can give you something to keep going.

It’s called cognitive reserve, and it can delay the development of Alzheimer’s disease, says Selbeck.

Some, young and old, claim to be particularly hopeless with names. But the professor also doesn’t think it’s the character who decides.

It’s about age – or childhood

Forgetting names increases with age. If it comes to character, then it will remain stable throughout life.

Selbeck stresses that not remembering names is related to age.

But it can also be affected by memory loss early in life.

Parents of young children are exposed to cognitive impairment. According to Selbeck, they have so much to remember and focus on, that their memory fails for things other than children and housework.

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– But it shows that it is temporary.

The normal impairment of how the brain works begins gradually already between the ages of 25 and 30 years. From there it goes steadily down the hill. At the age of sixty, deterioration accelerates, and from the age of eighty the deterioration is faster.

— But it’s important to remember that there are big individual differences, says Selbeck.

Hanne Solem doesn’t think it’s getting harder to learn and remember names as she gets older. It was still about relationship and interest.

60-year-olds make fewer mistakes

And Selim does not forget the names of his old students.

– I was a teacher in northern Norway in the mid-seventies. I can still remember the names of the students from that time, says Solomon.

Older people generally take longer to retrieve nouns from memory, but the good news is that some things are getting better.

We get a bigger vocabulary and a better ability to analyze and put information together, says Selbeck.

Even if a 60-year-old takes longer, he takes fewer chances. Then he makes fewer mistakes than a 25-year-old, who takes more chances and therefore makes more mistakes.

Researchers are also working on ways to remember names.

You remember better if you repeat the name

One way is repetition.

You are at a party and you meet someone you have never met before. She says hello, and says her name is Emma. Then repeat the name: “Hello Emma.” She goes on, but after a few minutes she repeats the name: I’ve met Emma. Feel free to say it out loud. And before leaving for the evening, she says it again: I have met Emma.

Then the name should remain consistent until the next time you meet Emma, ​​according to those who swear that way.

Instructor Hanne Solem used this method.

– I said names a lot. It was nice, Trolls. Hi Trolls. In it, Trolls. Solim says it builds the relationship with the student, but it also helps to remember the name.

Several researchers have investigated whether descriptions help people remember.

Forget neutral people

Study participants viewed pictures and were given names with descriptions. Is linking the name and description easy to remember the name?

A new US study shows that negative or positive descriptions make it easier to remember names. But if the face in the photo has a neutral expression and the description is neutral, then this will not help the memory much.

Another study from 2021 was to test how good witnesses would be if they heard a conversation. Participants were given a description of the crime and the names of who did what. The result was that they remembered what the criminals had done, but did not remember what their names were.

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Another method is the link method. Then you create your descriptions.

King Harald and Ciri Knitting

You met Mona. Mona has a moon face. You must remember the face of Mona the moon.

Meet Harald. It is somewhat similar to King Harald. You must remember King Harald.

Does your new friend always drink cocoa?  Then the potion can be used to remember its name.  (Illustrative image).  Photo: Shutterstock / NTB

Does your new friend always drink cocoa? Then the potion can be used to remember its name. (Illustrative image). Photo: Shutterstock / NTB

Your new classmate is called Kaja. You drink cocoa at lunch. You must remember Kakao-Kaja.

The trick is to make a name connection and not focus on remembering the name alone.

Hanne Solem also used this method and found characteristics of the student that helped her remember.

One student always had my salami in the lunchbox, another always arrived at the last minute, another lost both front teeth, and there was always something, says Solomon.

The best is a combination of two methods: repeating the name and creating an association. But there are other ways.

Go through the alphabet

Solem used cards and games for students to learn each other’s names.

A colleague at forskning.no swears by the alphabet. The idea is that the name you are looking for is in your mind. You just need help to get it out.

When you come up with a name, you go through the alphabet. Is his name something in “A”? Try the letter A for a few seconds. If it doesn’t feel right, move on. Something on the “b”? something on C?

It works every time, but it takes time, says journalist Siw Ellen Jakobsen.

All research on name memory, especially in psychology and neuroscience, has its interpretation.

It may be a sign of weakness

Forgetting people’s names is part of normal aging. Geir Selbeck says researchers are concerned about signs of normal memory decline.

Not remembering the names of people and things can be a symptom of early Alzheimer’s disease. Many researchers are interested in this.

A little self-interest in this particular research is a possible explanation as well.

– Researchers note it ourselves, that we forget names. Selbeck says it could stimulate interest in such studies.

Sources:

Nathan Whitmore and others: Target memory reactivation for face name learning is based on broad, undisturbed slow-wave sleep. NPJ Learning Science, 2022.

Chelsea L. Swanson et al.: The accidental learning of proper names and the calling of ‘eyewitnesses’. Memory, 2021. Summary.

Mike Burton et al.: I recognize your name but can’t remember your face: a feature of names in recognition memory. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 2018. Summary.

Liz Abrams et al.: Competitors or Colleagues: How proper names affect each other. Current trends in psychological sciences, 2017. Summary

(This issue was first published in Forsking).