The Grey Chronicles

2008.December.21

Forgetting Names


I have noticed in these past months, that while in the middle of telling stories I tend to forget names, that sometimes people I am talking to would suggest a series of names to supply to my stories. It’s not that I easily forget the name of a person I recently meet, but rather, I tend to forget names of persons of the stories I am telling. Sometimes, it’s a struggle just to get to tell the punch line without a name attached to it. The story becomes a dud whenever instead of saying: Bob did it! I would be constrained to say: This guy, whose name I don’t remember, did it!. Often times, I would repeat the same joke later, but only the punch line, when I do remember who did what!

Charles Baxter, the author of The Business of Memory summed up my concern:

“In an information age, forgetfulness is a sign of disability and incompetence.” Not only that, but it’s extremely annoying.

Worried, I went online and searched about the symptoms and possible solution or explanation to my problem. I was happy to find out that my problem is a common one and had been a topic on some other blogs, aside from being a lively forum topic on most medical sites.

Forgetting names, Schacter (2001), chairman of the department of psychology at Harvard, labels it blocking, failure to retrieve names, rather than failure to store them.

“Theoretically, remembering a name of anything requires sequential access to three kinds of knowledge: a visual representation; a conceptual representation of what the thing does; and a phonological representation of the sounds. Language processing models add a level, which Dr. Schacter calls the lexical level: how the word fits into a sentence. ”

The College of Family Physicians of Canada (2003) explained:

“Information stored in the short-term memory may include the name of a person you met moments ago or a phone number you just looked up. Information stored in the recent memory may include what you ate for breakfast or what you did yesterday.
Information stored in the remote memory includes things that you stored in your memory years ago, such as memories of childhood. . . ”

In an article in HealthandAge.com, a 68-year old man asked if forgetting names is a sign of Alzheimer’s disease, and it was answered:

“Your short-term and remote memories aren’t usually affected by aging. But your very recent memory may be affected. You may forget names of people you’ve met recently. Please know that these are normal changes. A memory problem is serious when it affects your daily living. If you sometimes forget names, you’re probably okay.”

The results proved promising: it’s a temporary glitch! At least I don’t have trouble remembering how to do things I’ve done many times before, getting to a place I’ve been to often, or doing things that use steps, like following a recipe; trouble learning new things, repeating phrases or stories in the same conversation, trouble making choices or handling money, or not being able to keep track of what happens each day! Or at least, I’m unlike my boss who keeps telling the same stories, two or three times a day, without even knowing that we heard the same joke awhile ago, that’s why we are not laughing the seond or third time around.

Thus, I would keep on telling stories whenever I can. Maybe, I just skip those punch lines with names of persons in it.


Notes:

Health and Age (2006). Forgetting names – Is it Alzheimer’s?. Health and Age, 08 August 2006. back to text

Schacter, Daniel L. (2001). The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2001. back to text

The College of Family Physicians of Canada (2003). Memory Loss with Aging; What’s normal, what’s not. New Ontario: Health Notes from Your Family Doctor, 2003. back to text

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22 Comments »

  1. Do you mind if I quote a couple of your
    posts as long as I provide credit and sources back to your weblog?
    My blog site is in the very same area of interest as yours and my users would really benefit from some of the information you present here.
    Please let me know if this okay with you. Thank you!

    Comment by sport.fr — 2013.March.24 @ 07:00 | Reply

  2. my email is not openinin on my pc they are asking for the name of my oldest nephew which i do not recall, i need yo help please

    Comment by ronie baale — 2012.December.12 @ 03:27 | Reply

  3. My condition is even weirder! I have no trouble remembering names generally speaking, but whenever put on the spot like introductions, or if someone out of the blue asks me what ‘that’ persons name is… My mind absolutely blanks out. And I am talking about names of people that I know very very well… Sometimes it comes to me in a moment or two, and other times… it is just gone. Once when making an introduction to someone I ran into publicly, I had to drag out my sentence to retreave the name. It sounded like this, “Oh… And this is… my wife… K***”. Yes really… Even her name and I say it a hundred times everyday. I often wondered if there was a name for this particular condition!

    Comment by Pat — 2012.October.18 @ 06:14 | Reply

  4. how about you are 20 and you forget the name of girl you have a crush on?:/

    Comment by Pavan — 2012.April.30 @ 13:32 | Reply

    • That’s love . . . . it’s not your age!

      Comment by reyadel — 2012.May.2 @ 08:02 | Reply

  5. I have been noticing some things lately that I can’t remember as well. I’m 34 years old and sometimes forget co-workers names who I see everyday or even just spoke to. When I’m speaking sometimes I have a hard time finding the right words in my vocabulary that I want to say. The other day I had a complete loss when I couldn’t remember the county I have lived in for the last 2 years. I felt like a complete idiot. I have been stressed out as well, but run and workout regularly and also let loose with friends. I’m not sure what it means, but it sucks…

    Comment by Steve — 2011.November.16 @ 20:46 | Reply

  6. I will give u simple effective tip just try remembering everything(wats comming up in u r mind) from the time u got up till u lay on u r bed every day before u sleep tat will make u r memory stronger tat will help in reconstructing u r short and long term memory too beleve in me it will work 100% but for the effective out come two things to be followed
    1)never anser immediatly give 2 sec time for u r brin to respond
    2)take long breath never take short breath will increase u r brain storing capability

    for any further tip contact :aeroatlantica@yahoo.com

    Comment by karthikeyan — 2011.March.2 @ 08:07 | Reply

    • Thanks, will try that, too!

      Comment by reyadel — 2011.March.2 @ 13:13 | Reply

    • That’s it! I always feel like I have to reply immediately, rather than pausing for a minute. Excellent. I will try it because I get all tense and have this block – is what it feels like. A certain pressure. Mostly when I meet someone I am concentrating on what they look like and what they are saying to me. Not there name. I lose it immediately, unless I see them again and again, or become friends.

      Comment by SGtry — 2012.March.15 @ 01:05 | Reply

      • I have the same problem. I have not found a cure for it yet. What I try to do is to take my time to remember the word. That seems to help some. The other thing is “that’s life”! Have faith! my wife try’s to help me out but I frequently say to her “don’t help, let me try to remember it”. Andras.

        Comment by Andras K Szakal, PhD. — 2012.April.10 @ 23:23 | Reply

  7. I also have the problem with remembering names. My family thinks its funny when I can remember all of an individuals details,like what they do for a living , their physical description, etc., but not their name. Personally it is getting worse and I am getting scared, and I’m only 50. Does anyone know of an exercise that might help?

    Comment by Terri — 2010.July.19 @ 02:20 | Reply

    • hi
      its a most common feature seen in stressed persons.
      my advise would be try 2 relax ur body with yoga especially pranyam.
      it helps very much in such conditions.

      Comment by Dr.Chodankar — 2010.December.28 @ 18:30 | Reply

      • Thanks, will try that!

        Comment by reyadel — 2011.March.2 @ 13:12 | Reply

      • Is it really just stress? I am a pretty calm person, and have low blood pressure. I have noticed that caffeine tends to help “speed up” my memory. But I still get that occasional blank where I could tell you everything about a person, but not be able to recall their name. Have been battling this for years, and just recently realized it was not normal. I am just 34 years old. I do notice it is worse when I am stressed, or tired. I just recently found out that a woman at my church … very easy going housewife (no kids at home) fights with the same issues… she might be 50?

        Comment by John Post — 2011.June.9 @ 14:45 | Reply

        • I am amazed to read these posts. I experience the same issue: recounting numerous personal details about a person but NOT thier name. It is so frustrating. I will try o watch ans see if it worsens when I am tired or stressed.

          Comment by Laura Antolak — 2012.March.4 @ 13:58 | Reply

          • Welcome to the senior moment club!

            Comment by reyadel — 2012.March.7 @ 02:31 | Reply

    • Names have to be associated with something the person said or did – an action, in my opinion. Otherwise, it’s a loss for me. But in my job it’s more important. Constant emails, constant names and faceless people. Gawd. So I use sticky notes,,,therefore no more forgetting. When I’m asked by many different people to do many different things, contacting many different people, I found the answer – write it down if you can. But emails are annoying on a constant all day long basis. And then when you get home, more of it. Too much information – the brain protects itself by not remembering everything. Yeeesss.

      Comment by SGtry — 2012.March.15 @ 01:09 | Reply

      • Tried also writing it down because as popular science claims, only 7 things are stored in recent (flash) memory in our brains. I agree with you about the brain protecting itself. Whew, too much information can really become a burden for our brains. Sometimes, I think it’s selective memory loss to some things (living or inanimate) that are somewhat unimportant. I often justify to some acquaintances that if I forget someone’s name, maybe he/she was not really personally or intimately connected to me (a close friend, a relative, a old love, et. al.) that my brain flushed out his/her name from my own memory bank!

        Comment by reyadel — 2012.March.17 @ 02:57 | Reply

  8. I have been facing a strange problem for the last couple of weeks. I have forgotten my nick name…the name frequently used by my friends, parents and my sisters and brothers. Around a decade ago when my studies were over and I started my first job, I fought with who ever addressed me with that name. Gradually every one around me stopped using that name and now all of a sudden I feel that I need to remember that name. I do not wish to ask any of my friends of relatives to tell me that name. They may doubt on my sanity….Oh God why and how did I forget that name?

    Comment by Aamir Faraz — 2009.October.21 @ 12:36 | Reply

  9. I am 32 years old and have the same problem. but I even have problems with familys names. my grandm just past and she had altzheimers.

    Comment by michele — 2008.December.31 @ 06:31 | Reply

  10. Rey,
    In here we call it a “Senior’s Moment”. Keep on telling those stories — who knows it may be better to skip names. Then, strangely (or coincidentally) also, I will be posting today in “Life After Steel” the article “What’s In A Name?”

    Comment by emarene — 2008.December.21 @ 13:46 | Reply


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