Have you ever wonder that why we forget people’s names??
Forgetting names is the biggest problem one can suffer with, by the bay how many times have you found yourself being introduced to a new group of friends, perhaps at party or a club? It feels very exciting to meet new people and to make new friends and yes, within a few seconds of that first “Hello, nice to meet you!” you have already forgotten the most important part of that exchange- the person’s name!
What follows is usually one of two things: 1) you can pretend like you haven’t forgotten, and may get away with it, at least until the next time you meet that person; or 2) you can admit that their name has fallen out of your brain almost immediately.
-The question is…. why does it seem so much harder to remember names than other things in life?
-The simple answer is…. because names aren’t really that important…. but there’s a bit more to it than that.
What is your name??
While your name might be the most fundamental thing about you, and the information that you offer to someone before anything else, the use of first, middle and last names is more of a societal need than an inherent mental requirement. Essentially, our names contain very little information; it is a means of identifying, but unless you are a whiz when it comes to pure memory that serves very little purpose in our brains.
Short-Term vs. Long-Term
Can you remember the last international vacation you took? Most people would respond with a definite, “Of course!” Now, can you remember what you had for lunch last Tuesday? Most people would respond with a confused, “Of course not…. who does?”
This is the difference between your short-term and long-term memory. While you were on that 10-day trip to Greece, there was a constant influx of information that your brain was storing and linking into memories. Thoughts of your flight lead to the hotels and the tours you went on, the wines you tried with those new friends, who you still keep in touch with today, because they also have friends from your hometown…
On the other hand, the unremarkable lunch you had at your kitchen table two weeks ago had no real impact on your life. You ate alone, it wasn’t a fancy or unique meal, and no new information or experiences were had. Your brain will store the memory of that meal for a very short time, and unless you regularly revisit it, or connect it to other pieces of information and memories, it will disappear. The short-term memory is basically the filter by which your brain declutters your memory and only holds onto the things you will need in the future.
Names are meaningless pieces of information, like the name of a folder on your computer that contains dozens of potentially important files. Once you accessed those files, and the information they contained, then the folder name would be more important to you, and thus easier to remember. While our brains may be the ultimate supercomputer, they don’t operate in the same way as our PCs.
Our minds tend to react better to visual stimuli, like someone’s face, or data stimuli that is associative, such as the person’s profession, connection to the host of the party or event, or a common interest that you share. Relevant information that links to other things you already know is the basis of forming neural pathways and strengthening memory. A name, whether it is Steve, Desmond, Michelle, Gabriella or Plain Jane, doesn’t provide an immediate link that our brains deem worthwhile.