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Why Is It So Hard to Remember the Name of Someone You Have Just Met?

You're introduced to someone at a party and then run into them a few minutes later ... but you have no idea what his or her name is. If this sounds familiar, don't worry -- you have several legitimate excuses. For example, you might have been concentrating on what you were going to say when asked to introduce yourself. Or maybe it's the fact that short-term memory is just that: short. And there's always the possibility that you just don't care that much about your new acquaintance. Charan Ranganath, director of the Memory and Plasticity Program at the University of California, Davis, says there are lots of reasons why we tend to forget names. There are also some ways to fix that. Repeating a person's name soon after being introduced can help, as can making a connection between the name and something about the person. For example, instead of trying to remember someone named John -- a very common name and easily forgotten when combined with all of the other Johns you know -- remember him as "John the jogger."

What's in a name?

  • A German-born typesetter holds the record for the longest name ever used, with a combination of 26 given names and a surname composed of 666 letters. His abbreviated name was Hubert Blaine Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff, Sr. -- still a mouthful.
  • In Iceland, new parents must choose their babies' names from 1,712 male and 1,853 female choices.
  • According to a study published in The European Journal of Social Psychology, people who use their middle initial are held in higher esteem than others.
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