BUILDYOURMEMORY.COM / A mnemonics and memory improvement resource
Mnemonics and memory / Build Your Memory
roman room statue

How memory operates
Why we forget
Observation and memory
Using mnemonics to link together memories
Mnemonics to master a foreign language
Mnemonics to remember numbers - The number/rhyme system
Mnemonics to remember your dreams
Advanced number mnemonics - Pegging
Mnemonics for quotations
Mnemonics to remember abstract symbols and letters
The Roman Room or journey system
Mnemonics to remember names and faces
Mnemonics for rememberring appointments - The Mental Diary
How to combine the systems - The Mental Database

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How to remember names and faces

The most common complaint made by people who consider themselves to be in possession of a poor memory, is that they are continually forgetting peoples names. They remember the faces (images are easy to recall), but the names fail to stick. The problem of forgetting names can be a big one. Particularly if you work in an environment which involves meeting a large number of new clients, who may take offence if you are continually getting their names wrong.

In fact they may even be so insulted, that they decide to take their business elsewhere. A terrible calamity indeed! The problem of forgetting names is an extremely common one, which is experienced by most people throughout their lives. But fortunately it is a problem that can be easily rectified. With of course the aid of mnemonics.

In this section I will explain two basic methods, which when used in conjunction with one another, will enable you to remember a large number of individual names associated with their respective faces, after hearing them only once. This is an incredibly useful skill to have and is particularly useful on such occasions as parties, business meetings and various other kinds of work-related or social gatherings. The methods that I will outline are as follows:

  1. The Observational system
  2. The Association system

But before outlining these systems I would just like to bring to your attantion a particularly pertinent fact. That is that faces are not processed by the human brain in the same sort of way that other information is. In 1971, the scientists Goldstein and Chance conducted a series of tests in which subjects were shown a number of photographs of women’s faces, magnified snowflakes, and ink blots. 14 from each were shown for 3 seconds at a time and following an interval of 48 hours the subjects recall was tested.

It was then found that faces were the most easily recalled, this was followed by ink blots, and finally by snowflakes. Thus showing that facial recognition (unlike name recognition) is a key part of human perception.

The human brain contains a number of different sections, which are responsible for different functions. And although these sections are very indistinct, with some sections possessing the ability to take over the functions of other sections if those sections are damaged in some way, these sections do exist.

For example we all have a ‘Broca’s region of the brain, which plays an important role in speech. There is also (more relevantly) a particular section of the brain that is responsible for the recognition of faces. When this region is damaged, an individual may completely lose their ability to recognize faces. Even those that belong to close relatives or friends. This condition is known as ‘Prosopagnosia,’ from the Greek meaning ‘failure to recognize faces.’

The fact that we all possess such a specialised region in our brains, which is dedicated to the recognition of faces shows us that facial recognition is essential to being human. Now, following that short semi-detour from the field of mnemonics, I will continue to outline the all important mnemonic technique for linking names to faces.

The Observational system

The first thing that you need to do upon meeting someone new whose name you want to commit to memory, is to somehow give their name meaning, so that it may be easily visualised.

For example the name ‘Jhonson’ can easily be broken down into the two words Jhon and Son. These words possess meaning, and anything that contains meaning is far more memorable than something that does not.
The name ‘Rosenberg’ can also be broken down to form the three words Rose, Hen and Berg (iceberg). These words also possess meaning and are thus far more memorable than the abstract name ‘Rosenberg.’
The name ‘Greensmith’ could be separated into the two words Green and Smith. The colour green is obviously fairly easy to visualise. Also smith (to me anyway) immediately conjures up the image of a blacksmith.
As a final example, the name ‘Standish’ may be split apart to form the two words Stand and Dish. Again these two words are simple to visualise.

Some of the names that you will come across are obviously far easier than others to visualise. For example the names Green, White, Brown and Black (being colours), already possess meaning and thus require no further processing in order for you to visualise them. So to do the names Peacock, York, Smiley and Forester.

Other names may however, require a little more effort to transform into a meaningful phrase, or set of images. But with a bit of practice, you will I’m sure be amazed at just how easy you will find it to turn any name at all - no matter how abstract, into an easily visualisable form. However to help you on your way, I have listed at the end of this section, a large variety of different names, together with appropriate mental imagery.

The purpose of splitting an abstract name into a non-abstract collection of words, is to allow your brain to categorise the information that is contained within the name. Something that the human brain has some difficulty doing with the name in its abstract form.
Also the act of transposing a name into a meaningful form, forces an individual to observe that name, and as was explained in an earlier section, observation is the most important prerequisite of an individual’s memory.

The Associational system

After breaking down a name that you wish to recall into an easily visualisable image (or set of images), the next step is to link that image to the individual concerned.
To accomplish this, you simply need to pick out the features or characteristics of the individual that stand out the most to you. This could be a dimple on his chin, or a freckle on her nose, or even a limp in their left leg.

Other things that you could use are – big ears, a hooked nose, wide forehead, a large or a small mouth, full or thin lips, or even a pair of bushy eyebrows. You could also choose something less visual, such as a lisp, or a stutter as the feature of the person that stands out the most to you.

Whatever the feature that you choose is, linking it to a name should not present you with much of a problem. That is it shouldn’t if you are familiar with the concept of linking. I have listed a few examples below to show you exactly what I mean.

Examples

  1. In order to remember that a woman whom you have just been introduced to – who happens to have long, red hair – goes by the name of Miss fields. All that you would need to do, would be to simply visualise an image of her, lying in a large, green field, with her long red hair spread out around her head.
    See it twisting around the long green grass. You might also try exaggerating the length of the hair, in order to emphasise the link between her hair and the field. This is so that when you see her (and her hair) again, you will immediately be reminded of her name ‘Fields.’
  2. To remember that a man that you have just met at a party, is called Mr Taylor, first pick out his most outstanding feature (say thick eyebrows) and imagine him with eyebrows so long that they reach down to the floor.
    Imagine him in this amusing predicament, whilst he is in the process of being measured for a new suit by his tailor. Thus powerfully linking his most outstanding feature to his name.
  3. Tailor
  4. In order to remember that the name of a tall, thin man, that you have just been introduced to is Mr Adamson, you might try visualising the biblical first man ‘Adam’ (complete with fig leaf), holding a little boy in his arms. Adams son – ‘Adamson.’
  5. To remember the name of a dimpled young lady named Miss Standwick, you could try picturing her face, with a number of large candle wicks standing in her exaggeratedly oversized dimples. Stand wicks – ‘Standwick.’
    If you really try hard to visualise the above image, then you should have absolutely no difficulty at all in recalling Miss Standwick's name.
  6. Finally, in order for you to remember a Mr Hill (who happens to possess a wide forehead), you could imagine the mans forehead, with a miniature mountain stuck in its centre. You might even like to visualise a large, snowy peak on its top. This is in order to make the image that much more amusing and thus more easy to recollect.

CONTINUE

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