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Are You Better at Remembering Faces or Names? The Surprising Answer

HealthDay News
by -- Robert Preidt
Updated: Nov 26th 2018

new article illustration

MONDAY, Nov. 26, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- Don't be surprised at holiday parties if you can remember someone's name but not their face.

Despite what many believe, people are better at remembering names than faces, researchers found.

In a series of tests, volunteers were able to recall up to 83 percent of names but only 64 percent of faces.

"Our study suggests that, while many people may be bad at remembering names, they are likely to be even worse at remembering faces," said Rob Jenkins, a reader in the Department of Psychology at the University of York, in Great Britain.

"Our life experiences with names and faces have misled us about how our minds work, but if we eliminate the double standards we are placing on memory, we start to see a different picture," he added in a university news release.

Remembering a person's face relies on recognition, while their name is a matter of recall. People are much better at the former than the latter, according to the researchers.

They noted that people only realize they've forgotten someone's name when they've already recognized the face.

"Knowing someone's face, but not remembering their name is an everyday phenomenon," Jenkins said.

"Our knee-jerk reaction to it is to say that names must be harder to memorize than faces, but researchers have never been able to come up with a convincing explanation as to why that might be. This study suggests a resolution to that problem by showing that it is actually a red herring in the first place."

The study was published recently in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.

More information

People with a condition called prosopagnosia can't remember people's faces.