How to Remember Names

How to Remember Names Image Have you ever been introduced to someone, then two minutes later realized you don't have a clue what was just said? Or, maybe you've seen someone you recognize at the mall but cannot recall their name. You're definitely not alone. Remembering names is challenging for many people, but it's not because anyone is inherently 'bad' at it.

There is hope if you've ever been embarrassed or frustrated that you can't remember a name. Once you learn a bit about how your brain processes and saves information, you can create a strategy to commit names to memory!

The Science of Attention and Memory

Your body sends around 11,000,000 bits of information per second to your brain, but only about 50 bits can be fully processed. Much of the input includes normal bodily functions without your conscious knowledge. However, a significant amount is sensory input from the world around you, like temperature, smells, noises, light, etc. Since your brain can only process about 50 bits per second, most sensory input is immediately ignored and discarded.

There are three key components needed to create long-term memories.
1. Attention

In today's world, an almost constant source of information competes for your attention. As a result, it seems nearly impossible to focus on any one thing without conscious effort.

2. Repetition

If not repeated, your brain starts to forget new information within just a few moments. 'Working memory" allows you to recall things as they are happening. Still, if your brain doesn't deem the information important enough, it discards it.

Your brain makes connections and memory with repetition. For example, infants learn to walk by repeating steps over and over, and learning from each fall. The repetition makes connections, which eventually leads to skill mastery.

3. Association

Information associated with other information is more likely to be considered 'important' by your brain. For example, when you think of 'blue' and 'sky' together, it is an association made over time that the two go together.

How to Improve your Name Memory

Now that you know about the components of memory formation, you can use them to create a strategy during introductions.


Focus might be the most challenging aspect of learning someone's name. During an introduction, you likely have other things already on your mind, such as what's for dinner, what time it is, the temperature of the room, etc. The point is that there are a lot of distractions, no matter your situation.

Ignore other thoughts and distractions to focus on the person, especially their face, even if it's just a few seconds.


When a person introduces themself, immediately say the name back. This first repetition confirms that you heard the correct name. Then, repeat their name as the conversation comes to a close. You've now listened to the name at least three times in short order, which will help solidify it in your memory.


Find a characteristic you can associate with the person during the introduction. You may choose a facial feature, their hair color, or maybe they have the best manicure you've ever seen. Now that you have more than one 'bit' of info, your brain will be more likely to store the information together.


Many people struggle to remember names, but no one is inherently 'bad at names.' The truth is your brain can only process a finite amount of information at any given time. Often, there is just too much competing information during an introduction for your brain to store the name correctly.

There are three key components to improving this skill:

  • Focus - Ignore competing stimuli and pick a characteristic
  • Repeat - Repeat the name at least two times during the introduction
  • Associate - Associate the name and characteristic together

With a bit of intention, you will improve your name-remembering skills. The more you practice, the easier it will become. However, even with great intentions, you're likely to forget sometimes. We are all human, after all. So if you forget, admit it with a smile and ask!


Get Updates from Take 2 Minutes:
Signup for Updates and Get 20% Off a New User Subscription.

The above only enters your email to receive periodic information from Take 2 Minutes and does not sign you up for services by Take 2 Minutes. By clicking [ENTER], you agree to receive emails from Take 2 Minutes at the address provided. View our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.