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We remember names better than faces: Study

We remember names better than faces: Study
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We are actually better at remembering names than faces, according to a study Researchers from the University of York in the UK suggest that when we...

We are actually better at remembering names than faces, according to a study. Researchers from the University of York in the UK suggest that when we castigate ourselves for forgetting someone's name we are placing unfair demands on our brains.

Remembering a person's face in this situation relies on recognition, but remembering their name is a matter of recall, according to the study published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. It is already well-established that human beings are much better at the former than the latter, the researchers said. They also point out that we only become aware that we have forgotten a name when we have already recognised the face.

"We rarely have to confront the problem of knowing a name, but not a face -- remaining blissfully unaware of the countless faces we should recognise, but walk straight past on the street," researchers said. For the study, the researchers designed a "fair test", pitting names against faces on a level playing field. They set up an experiment to place equal demands on the ability of participants to remember faces and names by testing both in a game of recognition.

The results showed participants scored consistently higher at remembering names than faces -- recognising as little as 64 per cent of faces and up to 83 per cent of names in the tests. "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, from the University of York.

"This will surprise many people as it contradicts our intuitive understanding," Jenkins said. "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 said. Participants were given an allotted period of time to memorise unknown faces and names and then tested on which ones they thought they had seen before.

The researchers then repeated the test, but this time they complicated the experiment by showing participants different images of the same faces and the names in different typefaces. This was to make the test as realistic as possible, as real faces appear slightly differently, due to factors such as lighting and hairstyle, each time you see them. On average, participants recognised 73 per cent of faces when shown the same photo and 64 per cent when shown a different photo.

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