Of all the concerns that people have shared with me about their memory, putting names to faces is number one on the list. As humans we have an inbuilt mechanism for recognizing faces (this is probably an evolutionary hangover from the time when we needed to discern our friends from our enemies). If remembering a face presents no difficulty, then why is it that so many of us have a problem when it comes to remembering names? There’s a very simple answer, our names do not describe our faces. You should also read how to develop a perfect memory and How To Unlock The Power Of Your Imagination For Memory Improvement.

Give A Face A Place

What are the most effective ways of ensuring you never experience that embarrassing moment at a party, which we’ve all suffered at some time, when you are forced to ask, “Sorry, what was your name again?” 30 seconds after being introduced to someone? The most important thing is to recognize that we tend to associate a person with a particular place. Think of a time when you have bumped into someone in the street whose face is very familiar but whose name escapes you. What is the first thing you do to try to recall who this person is? You ask yourself, “Where do I know this person from?” It is the place that will release most of the memories connected with this person including, hopefully, his or her name.

remembering faces

One trick I use to memorize people for the first time is to designate a place for each of them. I do this by imagining where I might expect to find this person. Let’s say you are being introduced to a lady at a party and for some reason you think that she looks like a librarian. Perhaps she has a studious air about her. Now you have prepared a location for her. You are told that her name is “Margaret”. Now think of someone that you know of called Margaret (a relative, friend, actress, politician, or whoever) and picture her at your local library. The first Margaret you think of is the ex British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher – so you imagine her working at the library. The next time you see this lady’s face you will be able to retrace her name in the following way.


This may seem like a lengthy process to connect the face to the name, but remember that your brain recalls information in a flash as long as there is chain of associated connections for it to travel along.

Focus On Facial Features

If I meet someone whose features are particularly striking, instead of associating that person with a place, I sometimes find it is easier to connect their name directly to their physical appearance. For example, you are introduced to a man called Peter Byrd and immediately you connect his name with his face as he has a rather hooked nose (a bit like a bird’s beak). Your brain can now make more connections and quickly seizes on “Pet”, short for Peter, and there you have your link, Pet Bird.

I find the best way to tackle a complicated surname is to break it down into syllables and then turn these syllables into images. Names, like numbers, need to be translated into images so that our brains can digest them. Our brains thrive on making connections, so when we are confronted with a name that doesn’t represent a face, then the answer is to forge an artificial link between the two.

method for remembering names and faces

Here is an exercise that will give you a chance to try out your brain’s agility in making links. Get a sheet of paper with names and faces on it. You can use any of the techniques described in this post: that is, place a person in a familiar location, or identify physical resemblances, or distinctive characteristics of a name or face to make associations and form memorable images. For example, how might you commit Maria Hutton to memory? The surname “Hutton” sounds to me like “hat on”, so I picture Maria Hutton wearing a hat, with her braids poking out. I notice that she has rosy cheeks, so I imagine she is flushed from singing the line “I’ve just met a girl named Maria” from the musical, West Side Story. This will remind me of her first name.

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