Most of us have experienced it at least once: Immediately forgetting someone's name after being introduced. You'll probe your brain trying to remember, struggling to come up with even the first letter. Then you get frustrated and think "Why is it so hard for me to remember names?"
While you may think your inability to remember names is just how you were born, psychologists are saying that it is actually your low level of interest that makes it hard for you to remember names.
Researcher Richard Harris, a psychology professor at Kansas State University, said that it's not necessarily your brain's ability that determines how well you can remember names, but rather your level of interest.
"Some people, perhaps those who are more socially aware, are just more interested in people, more interested in relationships," Harris said in a university news release. "They would be more motivated to remember somebody's name."
For example people in politics or teaching may be better at remembering names because knowing names is beneficial, according to researchers.
However, a person's inability to remember names does not mean they have a bad memory.
"Almost everybody has a very good memory for something," Harris said.
He said that they key to a good memory is your level of interest. The more interested someone is about a topic, the more likely new information will be imprinted in their brain, even though it will not seem like they are using their memory.
Harris says that a few years ago he surprised himself while playing a geography game. He said he and some of his students were amazed by his own knowledge of naming countries and their capitals and struggled to understand why.
Then he remembered that his cast knowledge of capitals didn't come from memorizing them from a map, but rather from his love of stamps and learning their whereabouts.
"I learned a lot of geographical knowledge without really studying," he said.
Harris says this example can also apply to why some things seem so hard to remember. While people may have trouble remembering complex ideas or things that are hard to understand, people can also forget simply because of their lack of interest, like remembering names.
Harris recommended a couple of strategies for training your memory, like using a mnemonic device.
"If somebody's last name is Hefty and you notice they're left-handed, you could remember lefty Hefty," he said.
Another strategy is to say the person's name while you talk to them, but he said the best strategy is simply to show more interest in the people you meet.