Most of the time, when we meet someone new, it’s
much easier to remember the face than the name that goes with
it. One reason for this difference is that most faces (except
those of identical twins) are unique, but most names are not.
John Wayne, John Lennon, and John Kennedy all shared the same
first name, although their faces and personalities were very
different. The same goes for Marie Curie, Marie Osmond, and
Marie Antoinette. If your new friend has a common name, it may
be hard to create a distinct memory for that name.
In order to get around this problem, you need to
find a way to make the name memorable. One way is to try to
create a visual link between the person’s name and his face. If
your new friend has a nickname like Rusty (for his red hair) or
Shorty (for his height), then it’s easier. With luck, when you
see your new friend, his visual appearance will help remind you
of the nickname.
But what about all the other people whose names
seem to have no relationship to the way they look? In those
cases, you need to make your own links. One trick is to form a
visual association between your new friend and a celebrity of
the same name. If your new friend’s name is John, you might
picture him up on stage, singing along with John Lennon, or
riding a horse on a movie set with John Wayne. To remember
Marie’s name, imagine her working in a science lab with Marie
Curie or trying to save Marie Antoinette from the guillotine.
Make the image as detailed as you can. If it’s bizarre or
humorous, so much the better.
Since greater effort often means better memory,
the mere fact of creating and remembering this visual image will
strengthen your memory of the name. The visual image may also
help you recall the name later: Next time you see John or Marie,
remember the image and the celebrity, and that will remind you
of the corresponding name.
Of course, if
your friend has an uncommon name, like Wilberforce or Andromeda,
it may be hard to come up with an appropriate celebrity. But in
those cases, the names themselves may be so unique that they
will stick in your memory without much additional help!