Remember the days when you knew everyone’s name instantly? And recognized faces without a problem? In those days, you never seemed to have to struggle for clues – you just knew. You were probably about 14!
Actually, until you find yourself searching frantically for a name you really know quite well, you’ve taken the skill of recognition for granted. But it is actually a very complex process and it isn’t until your memory has let you down, that you begin to realize this.
To remember and recognize someone you have to bring together an amazing range of stored memories that, if you remember, come together quite unconsciously. These include, for example, facts about someone from your semantic memory (same school/married Sally/three daughters/drives a Lexus), the relationship the person has with you (I know him/played football on the same team) and episodic memories (we visited a bar last time we were in town) and then, the person’s name. At the same time you may have an emotional response to the person (I don’t get on with him, really). If there is a malfunction in the remembering process, it could be because you are distracted by other thoughts, stress or maybe too much alcohol …. Or it could be, if the person is only slightly known to you, that you did not encode the information well enough into your memory. Remember, it takes seven seconds of processing to establish a memory trace.
Tips for Remembering Names and Faces:
1. Pay attention to the person and try to be genuinely interested in them. Notice any distinctive features of the face.
2. Focus on the name and process it a little. Ask questions – Is that Graeme with an ‘e’ or an ‘h’? Does McCallum mean you are Scottish?
3. Link information you find out about the person with other facts you already know about someone else. E.g. If Bill drives a Lexus, for example, link him to another person you know with a similar car. Imagine them having the cars cleaned at the same carwash.
4. Try to take time a few minutes after meeting the person to review what you know about them. The name, visualize the face, say the facts that you know – and review these several times over the next few days.
For more information on this topic, read Memory Loss Nearly Cost Sam His Job
Phd, MA, MNZAC, MNZPsS
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