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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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 flickr.com

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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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Last Updated on June 6, 2019

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.

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     A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice.[1] The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

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    The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

    “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

    In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

    The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence

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      A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.

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      Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.

      “When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

      When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

      The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

      As Herman Melville once wrote,[2]

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      “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

      Silence relieves stress and tension.

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        It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

        A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

        “This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.[3]

        Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.[4]

        Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.

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          The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

          Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

          But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.[5]

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          Summation

          Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

          Featured photo credit: Angelina Litvin via unsplash.com

          Reference

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