I’m terrible with names. I forget names during movies, books, and even interviews. It’s embarrassing whenever I run into someone I recognize, and their name completely escapes me. “Heeeeeeeyyyyy [who the hell are you?]. How are you? Good? Cool, seeya later!”

Lifehacker posted an article recently describing techniques for boosting your retention of seemingly rote information, like a 20×25 grid of numbers. The post linked to this “Remember Names Game” which I checked out, and I was blown away by the results. Here’s the strategy for remembering anyone’s name.

The key to effective memorization is to link a visual image with a person and their name. The more exaggerated and vivid the image you conjure up, the easier it will be for your brain to remember a person’s name. Action that borders on ludicrous and images that evoke multiple senses are other useful ways to create a vivid image.

I like to use stories when trying to remember a name. For instance, here’s a photo of some random dude I found on the Internet:


Guess my name!

This is Kevin. What story can you ascertain from this photo? Let’s see. It’s black and white. That reminds me of Instagram. Kevin must really like sharing photos of himself on Instragram and has a particular fondness for the Inkwell filter. In fact, he posts photos of himself all the time in hopes of getting some chick to like one of his photos, and possibly even comment on them. Speaking of Kevins, isn’t one of the founders of Instagram named Kevin?

Out of some meaningless face, I’ve made a connection to Instagram, chicks on the Internet, and entrepreneurs. Remember, the more vivid the image, the easier it will be to associate a name with a face.

A wild, but memorable story won’t conjure up a name unless you attach it to some specific place. This is the “mental glue” that pulls the crucial information together into some coherent picture.

So, let’s go back to Kevin. How will we remember this story about Instagram when we see his face later on? Well, let’s “anchor” that story to those unwavering eyes of his. His eyes gives me the impression that he is pretty tired, probably because he’s been staring at his computer screen all day, screaming at Kevin Systrom’s Twitter stream demanding that the Android version of Instagram be finished sooner.


The key takeaways:

  • Use exaggerated imagery/stories
  • Evoke as many senses as possible
  • Active actions over passive actions
  • Attach the story to some place where you can remember the story you create


So, go ahead and play the “Remember Names Game” and see if you can beat my majestic high score of 88.