Names and Faces

Here’s a thread to discuss names and faces strategies. I’ll start:

Well I’ve never tried to memorize a list of names and faces myself… But Ronnie White suggests having specific images for common first names. Sounds like a ‘must.’ Memorizing a list of names should be easy, but how can a person be able to remember faces? (Not only do I forget names in real life, I often don’t recognize a person at all on second meeting.)


I feel your pain. Names and faces are tough for me. Faces especially.

I’m now convinced that I have a very very very mild case of face blindness:

It takes a lot of effort, but when I apply Ronnie’s ideas for faces & names, it greatly helps with faces. I think because it forces you to find a distinctive feature on the face. If someone has a series of pock marks under their right eye, I’ll be much more likely to remember that than their exact face as a whole.

Have you seen the Memorizing Names and Faces wiki page? There are some ideas there…

I took a look at the wiki page, and didn’t see the method I use. I was familiar with the Lorayne, White methods as well as the Bruno Furst, and Zufal methods from the old days, for example in the white method when you meet a “Chris” they are always associated with a cross, and you have to remember your peg words for the faces- I simply changed those words to people I already know with the same name. For example if you want to remember a Jenifer you might take that common feature and associate it with Jennifer Aniston on it. Meet a Bruce it could be Bruce Willis. I also take something that person might do and apply it to the new person if I meet a Chuck, Chuck Norris could be karate chopping that part of their face. The guy who mows my lawn is Steve, if I meet a Steve I imagine the Steve I already know pushing a lawn mower across the most distinctive part of his face.

When nobody comes to mind, I fall back on the methods of putting a check mark on a Marcus etc…

Names and faces is a tough one alright, but it is one that would be great to be good at.

There is also a lot of opportunity to practice.

I think the key to this one is spaced repitition, recalling a few times over a few days should get it into the longterm memory.



I am not particularly good at names and faces. I think that is because I rarely get to practice it in real life. What do people do to practice (get better) at this ?

I have tried going to the walmart, 7-11 , restaurants, and anywhere people have a name badge and just try to remember the faces and names of people secretly reading the name badge of the employee, then trying to remember them one as I walk around the store and see if I recall them again with out much luck. I did find out that people get creeped out if you know their name and they don’t know yours pretty quickly.

Experts often say that people say I am good at faces not at names, but the people who say they remember your face I feel are often lying and don’t remember either.

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Does anyone know of any good software, with data base, to help with names and faces?

After the championship was over, Tony Dottino crossed my path and said “Hey, could I give you a couple of tips on N&F?” (Did he pity me? :slight_smile: )
First, he talked about similar phonemes. “You could see a Dot on my forehead, and a Tee on my nose, and I could be eating frosted flakes maybe, like Tony the Tiger.” I believe that’s what he said, anyway.
“Dang,” I thought. “Definitely knew all that…”

I went into the competition with 300 Male and 300 Female common first name images (most were from the Wiki link posted above). That covered some amount of the faces given, but fewer than I had hoped. For those names I hadn’t thought of ahead of time, it looked hopeless. I think one should have about 1000 of each (male/female) before competing to obtain a solid edge in probability…and, of course, the skill to actually obtain that edge. Tony also told me that there was a competitor in the past who scored 120 by memorizing only first names. The first names were associated with his friends and celebrities. Seems like if you could get the first names, the last ones would be fairly easy to remember, but it looks like that system works for him pretty well. I’ve heard that method decried before (Ronnie, though he didn’t quite explain why in his audio series, really believes it’s a bad idea). But it must not be all bad.

Probably, one of the best things to know in order to succeed at the event is more or less exactly how many names you are able to memorize within the time limit. I didn’t even know that much, and studied less than 50/119 faces in 15 minutes.

It’s also very difficult to train for because there aren’t too many faces available for practice. Yearbooks are good, but everyone you memorize has the same first letters of the last name, and it’s hard not to cheat that way, even accidentally, during recall. Cutting out the names and faces would be very time consuming.

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I found a place with names and some pretty interesting faces :

Here is a list of 435 more possibly guilty people :slight_smile:
(112th congress)
(no intention of getting political - Please don’t let me be the one that starts a political topic)

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This topic is quite old, I know, but even my problem is dating back to the beginning when I was unable to memorize faces, let alone names… I haven’t solved it yet. It drives me crazy, to be honest.

The methods described, for instance, on wiki page are really good… But! Ron White, Dominic O’Brien, all those guys who mastered the names & faces memorization simply have no official score for the current standard.

I was able to do about 60 names for the old format, when you didn’t need two reading phrases in order to read the name correctly, much less remember it.

I purchased one month of memocamp few days ago, and I have a feeling like buying a chinese book and trying to read it. I cannot simply recall those names, because they are so tough.

For example, Shengjiong Sharipova. This is not the most difficult one, nor the easiest. I am unable to pick up the distinctive feature on the face, and even as I’m thinking about this name right now, no valid association comes to my mind… Sharipova = could be something “sharp”, but it doesnh’t include the type of name “sharipova”, the suffix “ova” and so on.


Katarina, Catherine, Katarzyna, Caterine, Caterin… Simply the image for these names would be the same, at least, for me. How do solve this? I always get low score because the word is written incorrectl.

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I dunno, Nightwalker, I dunno…These past 6 weeks have been my best ever in terms of consistent improvement in each of the events, but the 5 & 15 minute Nat AND Int names are the only ones that I haven’t improved at in months. And when I do N&F, it just feels like a waste of time, like “what am I doing? I have all these good tricks to remember numbers, cards, random words, but here, I’ve got nothing.” I can make the names into images, sometimes good ones, sometimes not, but almost without fail, the faces do nothing to remind me of the images that I created. Even if I remember the “distinct” feature (rarely do I see one), it doesn’t help to remind me of the name. Just a moment ago I loaded six faces, twelve names,and gave myself 6 minutes to make extraordinary pictures and original, creative, memorable links, to see if I spent 72 seconds on each person if I could recall their names without review. I scored a 7/12 I think, and NOT because of spelling errors. No joke – whazzat?

To continue the rant just a teeny moment longer, I have logged fewer than 10 hours in these three events: Historic Dates, Abstract images, and spoken numbers. I have logged 50 hours on 15 minute N&F, but it is still my lowest score. So the stuff I’m practicing is useless it seems, I need a totally new approach, I’m thinking a specialized use of memory palaces somehow, maybe?

I’ll let you know if I stumble upon something good, Nightwalker!

TL;DR: Really look at people in real life.
I don’t have a strategy yet for names and faces but I got 56 in the Gothenburg Open and I have 76 on memocamp, so I think I might be of some use in this thread.

Statistically (if you disregard the anomalies like von Essen, Reinhard and Konrad) women are better at Names/Faces (and words) than men. My hypothesis is that we’ve been programmed/primed since birth to be caretakers and look at other peoples faces, emotions, personalities more so than men have - thereby creating stronger mirror neurons to recognize ourselves in others and also take note of details in the other person. So my suggestion would be to really look at people (their clothes, their smile, the way they did their hair, the way they hold their drink etc.), mirror their body language and if you really want to go for it - try to see who they really are. This is of more use than you can imagine in real life and in competition (I think) than to create a database of random images of faces and names.

I’m not saying you should try to figure out who people “really are” during competition but it’ll help your face recognition and imagining your images together with their faces better. As for the names in themselves… I’d say go for creating images for the most common Anglo-Saxon, Middle-Eastern and Chinese first names. Chinese names in competition usually consist of multiple shorter names. Zhenzhu was a first name in South Germany which is easy if you have an image for Zhen and Zhu respectively. For European names it is best to get used to the endings of the last names like “-miglia, -tierri” for Italian names, “-strom, -berg, -son, -gren” in Swedish, “-pova” and the likes for Russian. We’re all pretty doomed if a Thai name comes up since 82% of Thai last names are unique because everyone tried to make their last names longer and thus “fancier” until renaming to long names was banned by law. The only work-around for this is to understand that Thai names also consist of smaller names. Panatchanok is easier if you see that it’s based on pan a tcha nok. Super tip - start painting/drawing portraits and also learn to place people on the world map (if you have one naturally in your mind’s eye, otherwise it might be a hassle).

Personally, it all goes horribly when I try to create images for the names (I tried to memorize all 100 names in Tokyo with this and I only got 43 during recall because I had no idea which elderly lady was kayaking etc.). But I’ve been experimenting (with extremely mixed results) to just put peoples initials on their foreheads and then hope during recall that I’ll remember what I read. Like “LT” on your forehead would be a “key” to open up the “box” that holds the name Lance Tschirhart. This only works because I trust myself with not misspelling for the most part. Sometimes I only get +40 with this and sometimes I get +70 (which is what I average right now) so it requires a bit more experimentation until I know whether to ditch it or not.

Hope at least some of my advice helps :smiley:


What I find really interesting is that I pass the first row, for example, 5 faces together with names, “memorize them”, and then, when I try to review only that particular row, I’m clueless what caught my eye upon the first face in order to reconstruct the association.

Somebody posted something about prosopagnosia - face blindness… I’ve got to have pretty severe case of this, because it’s unbearable!

At WMC last year, I scored only 26 points at 15 minutes names & faces. About 150 championships points. Shame!

Do you have any good resource regarding this name categorization, or is it just your theory? I read something about “most common names”, but since it is international format, we are talking about thousands of items, aren’t we?

If there is anyone with a good database concerning names ending, simply, this matter, let me know… let us know… save hopeless people, do something good!

All right, I will learn how to recognize thai names in as fast time as possible and then do the appropriate action… Skip it and forget about it! :wink:

I’ve always wondered what the hell those guys like Reinhard, Konrad do in order to achieve such scores… Of course, they train, but how and when… But even some guys like Ron White are extremely good at names while at number, for example, there is nothing to celebrate (if course, great achievements, but compared to names…)…

I’m not familiar with what the current standard is for the Names and Faces event - could someone enlighten me or point me to where it is described on the website?

Wow, Yanjaa came to visit! Thanks for stopping by. :smiley: I was thinking just yesterday that I wished I knew who you were so I could send you an e-mail about this. Remarkable foresight.

That post was less than three weeks ago, and now you have 83 names instead of 76… :open_mouth:

All of your advice resonates with me. I was thinking about the statistical weight of female athletes’ N&F abilities, and arrived at the conclusion that it must be related to motor neurons, and hypothesized along the same lines as you. Thus, I decided that during my next few runs I would very accurately mimic the facial expressions and body language of every person to a degree that would appear totally absurd in public. It was uncomfortable and time consuming, did nothing for me, and was in all other ways simply ridiculous, so I stopped. But now that you confirm that I was on the right track, I will take up that line again and more seriously this time.

Another reason I had thought to do this is because of a very curious phenomenon I have observed. During recall, I almost always recognize the faces of the people whose names I attempted to memorize as faces that I have very recently studied. Often of course, that is not enough to remember their names. However, when a photo is imbued with a greater-than-average amount of personality, I am more likely to get the name correct during recall. Note that I am not saying that the face is easier to remember or recognize, but that the name is easier to remember on account of the face.

Another thing I have been doing is reading the initials of some people, which has actually been more helpful than I would have expected at first. Hearing that you do this as well is extremely interesting. It is somewhat time consuming, and I considered it to be a weak enough link to cue the name that it couldn’t be worth doing with every single person, so I should just keep my eyes open for when the initials are the same first letter or interesting in some other way. But now that you have brought this up, I will pursue this line further as well.

If you could elucidate, since the process of branding the initials upon the foreheads is so quick, how do you actually spend your time? What else is it that you are doing in that time? Are you just trying to feel out the person?

You have at least some knowledge of the origins of names. Do you have a lot? If so, where did you learn what you know?

It is stunning to think that you haven’t developed a strategy yet, but as you figure out more, I hope that you will stop by again and let us know.

Here’s some handy videos teaching techniques for memorizing names and faces:

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Great list of videos (so it appears). Thanks a lot!

No reason to skip Thai names over any other unless you’re seasoned. 90% of the names in the international format are ones I haven’t seen before, and 99% of them are names that I don’t have images for, so they might as well all be unique.

Today I broke my 5 min Int. N&F PB that had been standing for months. It was at 45. I had gotten close a couple of times and even tied the score of 45 again 2 weeks ago. At this level, memocamp generates 27 faces, or 54 names.

Today, I got 51 correct of 53 attempted from 54 names, 51/53/54 !!!
And the two that were missed were:

I typed Jeanette instead of Jeannette
I typed Altamireno instead of Altamirano

It was a nearly perfect run, and worth a whopping 738 points!!!


That’s good news folks, because most people suck at picking distinct facial features and linking images to them. It seems everywhere you look, this strategy or some close variation of it is offered as the best. Well it isn’t necessary!

Yanjaa is not an anomaly. Names can be memorized without images and without trying to pick distinct facial features. I for one am 100% committed to abandoning that strategy p e r m a n e n t l y.

Unfortunately, like Yanjaa, I don’t really know how do describe my strategy because it was not very systematic. I’m breaking past a longstanding plateau now, so as I make more improvement I’ll observe my thought processes more carefully and drop by here again to help. All I can say for now is that at first I was really more focused on the names than the faces. I used something like you might use with random words, sometimes images and other times like a little story or something.

For instance, Paulus Bieshaare I thought that Paul is with us and he buys hair. It wasn’t an image exactly, but it was a memorable phrase. Other times I just made some sort of mundane observation that has to do with the name in a different way, such as that the first and last name start with the same letter, or that “Alicja” was a name I had never heard of, but it’s just like Alicia, except you drag the pen down while writing the second “i” and then it turns into a “j”. That was somewhat of an interesting observation, but it wasn’t an image, and it definitely wasn’t linked to a face.

Only as I went back for review after going through all of the names and faces did I realize that I hadn’t really been paying attention to the faces much yet. Some of the faces looked completely fresh as if I didn’t even look at the picture the first time through, and maybe I didn’t. But many of the names already had some sort of association with them that I had just made, like the three examples cited above. For every event, long or short, I do all of the memorizing at first and then go back to review it all - I never split material into chunks. But when I went back intending to review, noticing that I hadn’t payed attention to the faces much, it was only a review of the names. As far as the faces were concerned, the encoding process was actually in phase II:

  1. Find a way to convince yourself that each name is somehow interesting or unique using methods like the ones I described above. It doesn’t have to be great, it just has to have enough of an association that when you see the name the second time, you remember that you had seen it the first time, and you could retrace the thought process you had when you saw the name for the first time, whatever that thought process was. I believe that this is all it takes.

  2. Now that you “know” the names, go back and study the person that each name belongs to.

That was my method. And at least this one time, it worked like a charm. And this was the only time that I ever tried to do N&F like this.

LocilnTheSky and Yanjaa, this is turning into a very interesting discussion.

I hope you will both continue to hone a description of the methods that are working for you.

The initials thing really resonated with me. I plan to try this.

In my case, I don’t want this for competition… I just want to get better at it in real life. It is so embarrassing to meet someone “for the 1st time” who I’ve apparently met 6 times already in the past!

The process of using initials might be JUST enough… and might be more effective when you consider the time requirement to encode.

For example: I meet a guy at the pool club named John Washburn. With the existing method, I would have already at least had a premade image (a toilet) for John. Washburn is a silly easy example “sponging off a burning bush” or something. Then I’d have to find something unique about his face and attach those 2 images. Lot of work.

If I use initials, I personally don’t think JW will stick in my brain. I’d have to turn that into an image (I think… will test both ways). Dunno… maybe I use JaW and have a jawbone on his forehead. Point is, that could be done quickly on the spot without needing to pre-create and memorize a list of common names.

Downside might be:

  • I only know his initials and it’s not enough to extract his actual name
  • I run into lots of people with the exact same initials
  • I run into lots of people with J as first initial

The idea of only using the first name and simply remembering the last name off of that is something that REALLY interests me. I’ve had great success with focusing on remembering a small part of something, and then remembering the rest along with it.

For example, EVERY time I memorize a name, or even a vocabulary word, I try to focus exclusively on the stressed syllable. In the Dottino example above, I wouldn’t use a dot or a tee. I would use a “teen”, and I would automatically remember the rest of the name.

It’s all about the 80/20 rule: Use the smallest parts to get the biggest results.

Here are some relevant 80/20 examples for names, greatest to smallest:

  • Focus on learning the 100-1000 most common first names.
  • During the competition, focus on first names, not last names.
  • For first names you don’t know, focus exclusively on the stressed syllable.

So you use the small part as the trigger, and the rest comes automatically.

I don’t know how it works, but it’s like the other information is swept along in the coattails. Really powerful.

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