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英语新闻:记不住名字 不是你的错哟

2014-11-17    来源:英语点津    【      美国外教 在线口语培训

It’s not your fault if you can’t remember people’s names

Once, at a party, I was introduced to a friend of a friend. We shook hands, I told her my name, she told me hers. Then she did something that I was ever so grateful for.

“Hang on,” she said. “Can you say your name again? I wasn’t really listening.”

She saved me from having to later—possibly even at the same party—sheepishly admit that I, too, had already forgotten her name.

An informal poll of fellow Atlantic staffers confirmed my suspicion that this is something that happens to even the most kind and conscientious among us. No sooner does someone utter the most fundamental factoid about themselves than the information flees our brains forever.

There are a few reasons why this occurs:
The next-in-line effect: When you encounter a group of strangers with outstretched hands, your mind turns into a scared 9-year-old at the school talent show. You’re not watching the other contestants; you’re practicing your own routine. The process of both preparing to take in the others’ names and to say your own, as Esther Inglis-Arkell explained at i09, is so taxing that you don’t devote any brain power to actually learning the new names.

You’re not really that interested:

Maybe you’re just making an appearance at this party and are planning to abscond shortly to a superior kick-back. Your level of interest can impact how well you remember something. “Some people, perhaps those who are more socially aware, are just more interested in people, more interested in relationships,” Richard Harris, professor of psychology at Kansas State University, told ScienceDaily. “They would be more motivated to remember somebody’s name.”

A failure of working memory:

There are two types of storage in the brain: Long-term and short-term. The short-term variety is called “working memory,” and it functions like a very leaky thermos. It doesn’t hold much and it spills stuff out all the time. “You can hold just a little bit of information there and if you don’t concentrate on it, it fades away rapidly,” Paul Reber, a psychology professor at Northwestern University, told me in an email. “Information like a name needs to be transferred to a different brain system that creates long-term memories that persist over time.”

Names are kind of pointless:

To answer the famous question, there’s not much in a name, frankly. It doesn’t actually tell you anything about the person you’re meeting, and thus it doesn’t give your brain anything to cling to. Steve may love parkour, but he’d love it just as much if he were Samuel or Sheldon. “Human memory is very good at things like faces and factual information that connects well to other information you already know,” Reber said. Wasn’t District 13, that French parkour movie, really awesome? And hey, remember that time you studied abroad in Paris? All those little connections help solidify the memory of who Steve is and what he does.

​The name, meanwhile, “is both completely arbitrary and somewhat familiar (for common names) and ends up neither connecting to what you already know nor standing out as unusual,” Reber said. “So you get this funny phenomenon where you can remember lots about a person you recently met—everything except their name (this happens to me all the time).”


So the next time you’d like to excuse yourself for forgetting someone’s name without offending the person, just say something like, “Oh sorry, I was just overly concerned with telling you my own name to remember yours. But to be fair, your name isn’t actually that interesting to me, and besides, it’s inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.”

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曾经在一次聚会上,我的朋友把我介绍给他的朋友。我们握手,互通姓名。然后她做了一件让我很感激的事。

“等一下,”她说,“您能重复一下您的名字吗?我刚才没注意听。”

要不是她,我们下次再见时——甚至有可能就在这次聚会晚些时候,我会不好意思地承认,我像她一样,也没有记住她的名字。

是不是我们都会忘记别人的名字呢?最近的一项针对《大西洋月刊》职员的非正式调查证实了我的猜想,哪怕是我们当中待人最友善、最一丝不苟的人,也会忘记别人的名字。对方刚讲完自我介绍,他的名字可能就已经从我们的脑海中永远溜走了。

这种情况主要由以下几种原因导致:

依次失真效应(The next-in-line effect):

当一群初次见面的人向你伸出双手,你就会像一个在学校才艺展上受惊吓的9岁孩子。你不是在看其他的选手,而是在练习自己的表演动作。你要准备好记住他人的名字,还要说出你自己的名字,正如艾斯特·英格里斯·阿科尔(Esther Inglis-Arkell )所说,这太伤脑筋了,你的大脑又不是专门用来记新名字的。

你并非真的感兴趣:

也许你想在聚会上露个脸,稍微待一会儿就走。对一件事感兴趣的程度会影响你记忆水平。堪萨斯州立大学(Kansas State University)心理学教授理查德·哈里斯(Richard Harris)告诉《每日科学》(ScienceDaily):“有些人可能更有社会意识,对人更感兴趣,对人际关系更感兴趣。他们更有动力去记住别人的名字。”

工作记忆失误:

大脑有两种记忆类型:长期记忆和短期记忆。短期记忆也叫“工作记忆”,工作原理就像一个漏水的热水瓶,装不了很多水,还在不断地漏水。美国西北大学(Northwestern University)心理学教授保罗·雷柏(Paul Reber)在一封邮件中说:“你只能保留一点信息,如果你不集中注意力,这点儿记忆也很快会消失。像名字这样的信息需要转移到大脑的长期记忆系统,才会变成长期记忆。”

名字意义不大:

说实话,一个人的名字并不包含什么实质性内容,也不能告诉你任何有关这个人的信息。因此,你的大脑记忆也就没有依附的载体。史蒂文(Steve)可能喜欢跑酷,但是萨姆尔(Samuel)和谢尔顿(Sheldon)也喜欢跑酷。雷柏说:“人类善于记住脸孔,还有一些与已知信息联系在一起的事实性信息。”法国的跑酷电影《13区》(District 13)不是令人赞叹么?记得你留学巴黎的时光吗?所有这些小小的联系,都能帮助你深化对于史蒂文的记忆。

同时,名字通常“也是完全随意的,所以听起来都有一点儿相似(尤其是常见的名字),和你已知的信息没有联系,本身也没有什么特色,”雷柏说,“所以,你会发现你能记住有关你最近见到的人的很多信息,但唯独记不住他的名字(这时常发生在我身上)。这很有意思。”

所以,下一次见面,当你想为自己找个借口,同时又不冒犯他人时,可以说,“对不起,我刚才只顾着告诉您我的名字了,没有听清您的名字。但是说实话,您的名字我又不是那么感兴趣,何况名字也不是那么重要,是吧。”


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