News: I Never Forget a Name

You're being interviewed for a job, and just as soon as you're introduced to your potential supervisor, his name has flown completely out of your mind. Or an old classmate greets you enthusiastically on the street, but you can't place her until it's too late. Sound familiar? You're being interviewed for a job, and just as soon as you're introduced to your potential supervisor, his name has flown completely out of your mind. Or an old classmate greets you enthusiastically on the street, but you can't place her until it's too late. Sound familiar?

Recent studies shed light on why such memory blips happen—and how to avoid them. To better retain names and faces, consider the following tactics.

Focus on the eyes.

Apart from a few wrinkles around the edges, people's eyes don't really change as they age. If years pass between meetings, you'll be less tricked by shifts in hair, clothing, body shape, and height.

Add meaning. Invent strong—even oddball—connections between a person's name and face: Think of what the name reminds you of ("Tina" might turn into "tea"), and (in your mind!) paste that association onto the person's face.

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Plan ahead.

People are better at learning names when they see the names written down in advance, one study found. While that's no help for unexpected encounters, it can be a good strategy for classes, interviews, and parties with a public invite list.

Practice at home.

Quizzing yourself on celebrity names is a low-risk way to enhance your face memory skills. While watching movies or TV shows, work on forming name-face associations with people whose feelings you can't possibly hurt.

Relax.

When you're stressed, your body's endocrine system unleashes cortisol, which can kill all sorts of memories—including (and perhaps especially) the type of memory involved in recalling names.

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