Ever Wonder Why You Always Forget People’s Names? Experts Provide Answers

Ever Wonder Why You Always Forget People’s Names? Experts Provide Answers

What’s your name again?

We’ve all been there: meeting or being introduced to someone for the first time and seconds later forgetting his or her name. You rack your brain trying to remember, but you just can’t seem to even come up with the first letter. Then you get frustrated and wonder, “Why is it that I find it so difficult to remember people’s names?”

After a while you shrug it off and say to yourself it’s just how you were born, but that’s not really it. According to some experts, our levels of interest have a lot to do with how well we remember names.


Recalling a person’s name has something to do with our interest levels.

“Some people, perhaps those who are more socially aware, are just more interested in people, more interested in relationships,” Richard Harris, Kansas State University’s professor of psychology explains. “They would be more motivated to remember somebody’s name.”

This applies for people in professions like teaching and politics where knowing names is beneficial. However, if one isn’t interested in the person they are talking to, or knows they won’t meet that person again, they are less likely to store the information because it is of little use to them.

Mitchell Moffit and Greg Brown, creators of the popular and seriously scientific YouTube channel AsapScience, say our brains are hardwired to recognize facial details like nose length, eye color and mouth shape. However, when it comes to names, which to us are completely arbitrary titles (not interesting), it’s a more challenging task for our brains to recall.


“Because names are random and hold no specific information in them,” they explain, “the brain struggles to retain them… And if the brain can’t make connections between multiple pieces of information, particularly things that are already familiar to the individual, it’s more likely to forget it.”

Moreover, in what is referred to as the “next-in-line” effect, the pair add: “Instead of watching and listening to the other [person], the brain starts focusing on its own routine—what they’ll say and how they’ll say it.”

This is mostly what happens when you are introduced to a stranger. You focus too much on what you are going to say that you fail to pay attention to what the other person is saying, such as his or her name.


But, just because you can’t remember someone’s name doesn’t mean you have a bad memory.

Your brain’s just trying to avoid information overloading.

Try as you may to recall, but details such as a person’s name just take several hours to be consolidated in the brain, especially where there was no prior motivation or interest to keep it in mind.

According to memory experts at University of Sussex, you can actually be forgiven for forgetting the name of a new acquaintance just minutes after you’ve been introduced. That’s because while memories can be recalled several hours after learning them, they are inaccessible to us for a period.


It is not fully understood why we have these memory lapses, but scientists believe it is a necessary part of the brain’s process to avoid overloading with information. Dr Ildiko Kemenes, one of the experts at the University of Sussex, explains:

“Memory formation is an energy-consuming process,” she says “The brain has a restricted capacity to learn things and preventing some memory formation would be a way to avoid overload.”

The key to a good memory, it seems, lies in levels of interest. The more interest you show in a subject, the more likely it will imprint itself on your brain. If someone strikes you as particularly interesting, it will also seem like you are not really using your memory to recall their name.

So, don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t remember your name. They’re probably not trying to be mean. Introduce yourself again, but this time try to be more interesting.

Featured photo credit: vissago via

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David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

We thought that the expression ‘broken heart’ was just a metaphor, but science is telling us that it is not: breakups and rejections do cause physical pain. When a group of psychologists asked research participants to look at images of their ex-partners who broke up with them, researchers found that the same brain areas that are activated by physical pain are also activated by looking at images of ex-partners. Looking at images of our ex is a painful experience, literally.[1].

Given that the effect of rejections and breakups is the same as the effect of physical pain, scientists have speculated on whether the practices that reduce physical pain could be used to reduce the emotional pain that follows from breakups and rejections. In a study on whether painkillers reduce the emotional pain caused by a breakup, researchers found that painkillers did help. Individuals who took painkillers were better able to deal with their breakup. Tamar Cohen wrote that “A simple dose of paracetamol could help ease the pain of a broken heart.”[2]


Just like painkillers can be used to ease the pain of a broken heart, other practices that ease physical pain can also be used to ease the pain of rejections and breakups. Three of these scientifically validated practices are presented in this article.

Looking at images of loved ones

While images of ex-partners stimulate the pain neuro-circuitry in our brain, images of loved ones activate a different circuitry. Looking at images of people who care about us increases the release of oxytocin in our body. Oxytocin, or the “cuddle hormone,” is the hormone that our body relies on to induce in us a soothing feeling of tranquility, even when we are under high stress and pain.


In fact, oxytocin was found to have a crucial role as a mother is giving birth to her baby. Despite the extreme pain that a mother has to endure during delivery, the high level of oxytocin secreted by her body transforms pain into pleasure. Mariem Melainine notes that, “Oxytocin levels are usually at their peak during delivery, which promotes a sense of euphoria in the mother and helps her develop a stronger bond with her baby.”[3]

Whenever you feel tempted to look at images of your ex-partner, log into your Facebook page and start browsing images of your loved ones. As Eva Ritvo, M.D. notes, “Facebook fools our brain into believing that loved ones surround us, which historically was essential to our survival. The human brain, because it evolved thousands of years before photography, fails on many levels to recognize the difference between pictures and people”[4]



Endorphins are neurotransmitters that reduce our perception of pain. When our body is high on endorphins, painful sensations are kept outside of conscious awareness. It was found that exercise causes endorphins to be secreted in the brain and as a result produce a feeling of power, as psychologist Alex Korb noted in his book: “Exercise causes your brain to release endorphins, neurotransmitters that act on your neurons like opiates (such as morphine or Vicodin) by sending a neural signal to reduce pain and provide anxiety relief.”[5] By inhibiting pain from being transmitted to our brain, exercise acts as a powerful antidote to the pain caused by rejections and breakups.


Jon Kabat Zinn, a doctor who pioneered the use of mindfulness meditation therapy for patients with chronic pain, has argued that it is not pain itself that is harmful to our mental health, rather, it is the way we react to pain. When we react to pain with irritation, frustration, and self-pity, more pain is generated, and we enter a never ending spiral of painful thoughts and sensations.


In order to disrupt the domino effect caused by reacting to pain with pain, Kabat Zinn and other proponents of mindfulness meditation therapy have suggested reacting to pain through nonjudgmental contemplation and acceptance. By practicing meditation on a daily basis and getting used to the habit of paying attention to the sensations generated by our body (including the painful ones and by observing these sensations nonjudgmentally and with compassion) our brain develops the habit of reacting to pain with grace and patience.

When you find yourself thinking about a recent breakup or a recent rejection, close your eyes and pay attention to the sensations produced by your body. Take deep breaths and as you are feeling the sensations produced by your body, distance yourself from them, and observe them without judgment and with compassion. If your brain starts wandering and gets distracted, gently bring back your compassionate nonjudgmental attention to your body. Try to do this exercise for one minute and gradually increase its duration.

With consistent practice, nonjudgmental acceptance will become our default reaction to breakups, rejections, and other disappointments that we experience in life. Every rejection and every breakup teaches us great lessons about relationships and about ourselves.

Featured photo credit: condesign via


[1] US National Library of Medicine: Social rejection shares somatosensory representations with physical pain
[2] Daily Mail: Nursing a broken heart? How taking a paracetamol could dull the pain of rejection
[3] Mother For Life: Oxytocin’s Role
[4] Psychology Today: Facebook and Your Brain
[5] Alex Korb: The Upward Spiral

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