Recent studies have confirmed what scientists have long suspected — the average person is not actually “bad with names,” as they so often tell you, but are in fact only bad at remembering your name, specifically.
“There seems to be something about your name in particular, whatever it is, that proves difficult for the average person to find in any way memorable or valuable long enough to store in their long-term memory,” lead scientist Maria Kempler announced this week while releasing her team’s latest findings.
“Generally, people find it easiest to tell you they’re just bad with names,” she continued, “to spare your feelings. It’s easier if you think of them as generally scattered and careless — maybe even a bit thoughtless or self-absorbed — than to hear the truth, which is that your name, specifically, whatever it is that you call yourself (I can’t exactly recall) is the least memorable thing they have ever heard.”
“Again, I can’t stress this enough,” she said, “other people have absolutely no trouble recalling the names of new acquaintances, coworkers, employees at the post office, cab drivers, and friend’s girlfriends. It’s your name that’s the problem. They’ve been telling you it’s a general problem, but that’s not true at all.”
The latest research confirms that absolutely nothing helps other people remember what you’re called; not repeating your name while making eye contact, not writing it down (they don’t write it down, of course, but even if they did, it wouldn’t help), not asking how it’s spelled, not even asking a mutual friend to remind them of it later.
If prompted, your mutual friend would have to admit he had also forgotten your name months before, and generally stuck with calling you “Hey” and “Do you have a second?”
People don’t focus on you, but even if they did, research suggests this wouldn’t help them remember who you are.
Scientists did have a few suggestions that might help you leave more of an impression when meeting new people, but they forgot about your very existence within the last few minutes; you faded so swiftly from the transom of their minds that they couldn’t remember you even had a name to forget.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.