Thursday, September 4, 2008

Excerpts from Edward Stoddard's 'How To Remember Names and Faces', 1958

Big thanks again to My Friend Topic for sharing another treasure from her fabulous trove of vintage booklets.

Memory expert Edward Stoddard's 'personal success program' is fun to flip through, primarily for the
circa-1958 faces in the photo recognition tests and the nifty practice 'flash cards' kit. (See below)

Stoddard's memory methods tend to stress many very simple but effective common-sense techniques, along with encouraging the use of mnemonic devices to establish mental word and picture associations in conversation with people.

A few images and informative passages from the middle of the text follow...


Far more people feel they need help in remembering names than in remembering faces.

"Sure I remember your
face, but. . ."

I hope we've made it clear already that this is partly fooling yourself.
Just a hunch that you've seen a face before is not remembering it.
But it is perfectly true that names are harder to remember than faces.
There are several good reasons for this.

First, more people are "eye" minded than "ear" minded.
This means that we really notice and remember things we see better than we notice and remember things we hear.

Second, when you meet a person you see his face for at least several moments.
In effect, you are seeing his face many times. Often you hear his name only once.
Sometimes you don't even hear his name once. The person introducing you may slur it or mumble it.
Even if he pronounces it clearly, often you are thinking about shaking hands and noticing how he looks. and you don't hear it clearly, if at all.

This leads us into - -


The first rule for remembering names is so simple and obvious that it seems absurd to mention it.
Yet it is skipped so often that it has to be made a rule:

Get the name.

This one rule, all by itself, will increase your memory for names by 50 per cent.
How often have you beeen introduced to several people at once and realized, when the introductions were over, that you didn't really get one single name?

So make it a hard and fast rule to get the name right at the start.

Stop, Look, and Listen

In fact, this and the first rule for remembering faces should all be rolled into one big rule labeled with the old railroad crossing slogan:

Stop. Look. Listen.

Stop thinking about anything else for a moment.
Think only of the person you are meeting.
Look at his face.
Listen to his name.
Sometimes you can't get the name even if you are listening.
In this case, don't skip over it. Stop the proceedings and say you didn't get the name.
Don't ask the person doing the introducing. Ask the person to whom you are being introduced. He won't slur his own name.

The person will definitely not be insulted that you ask him to repeat his name.
He will be pleased as punch. This indicates your interest in him.
If the name is unusual, ask him how to pronounce it or spell it, or both.
Again, I promise you he won't be insulted.
Everyone loves the sound of his own name, and he'll be delighted to talk about it.
Don't go on to the next step until you are sure you have the name right.
Everything that follows depends on rule one:

Get the name.


The second rule is not quite so obvious, but it is a great big step in making sure you remember every name:

Repeat the name.

That's all. But you'll be surprised at the difference it makes.

It's as simple as responding to the introduction with, "Glad to meet you, Mr. Austen."
There are valid psychological reasons for the importance of this.
The repetition imprints the name more firmly on your memory.
The fact that you said it, not someone else, gives it another hold on your memory.
It also makes extra sure that you really do have the name right.
When meeting several people, you can even just nod in a friendly way as you shake hands with each and state his name as your greeting - - "Mr. Austen. Mr. Jones. Mr. Phillips."

In case you don't remember (!), every memory expert you have ever seen show off his ability to memorize a long series of names repeats each name as it is given.
At that moment he is not thinking about the job he has to do.
He is not thinking ahead to the next name he will hear.
He is thinking of just one thing: the name he has just learned.
He is concentrating on it, memorizing it, and he never fails to follow rule two:

Repeat the name.


The third rule for remembering names is this:

Use the name.

As you talk with the person you have met, use his name every once in a while during the conversation.

This could easily become silly, of course.
You know better than to babble on with, "Nice weather we've been having, Mr. Austen. Don't you think so, Mr. Austen? Mr. Austen, what sort of work do you do?"
But now and then it's very natural to use his name in beginning or ending a sentence, especially if you're talking with several people.
Every time you use the name, it will become more firmly nailed in your memory.

If this is a person with whom you would like to be on first-name terms, using his last name every once in a while will not only keep helping you memorize it, but will also give him the chance to suggest you call him by his first name.
He may not, of course, but if it's in the back of his mind this will give him a natural opening.
Repetition in itself is a strong aid to memory.
When you have to memorize a speech or a part in a play, you do it by reading it first several times.
Repetition. It's 'not surprising that the same technique works with names.

So be sure to follow rule one and rule two with rule three:

Use the name.

Incidentally, there is another perfectly good way of using the name to help you remember it.
If you speak to the person very briefly, say at a party, and then move on to another group, glance at him every now and then and say the name to yourself.
Even with your back to him, you should be able to visualize your mental cartoon (surely you made one!) and say the name a few times to yourself.

▲ Above & below: ▼ Images from a section on using 'mental images', in photo tests and in forming a 'caricature' in your mind, exaggerating memorable facial features.

Click on spread below ▼ to view some test questions.


There is one story quoted in many memory books about a hat-check girl in a New York nightclub who made quite a reputation for herself by never giving anyone a check.

She simply remembered which hat belonged to each person.

This girl would never reveal her secret, though it surely worked along the lines we have already discussed.

Why she felt it was important to remember the people who gave her their hats should be obvious.
They were so flattered at being remembered that her tips were unusually generous.

The story of her standard answer to overly curious customers' ought to be reported, too.

One day a man getting his hat back looked at her and said, "How do you know this is my hat?"
The check girl smiled at him. "I don't, sir!"
"Then why did you give it to me?"
"Because you gave it to me, sir!"

That's all she knew - - all she had to remember.
But it paid off in handsome tips!

One interesting note throughout the text is the reluctance to use term "his/her".
It was 1958, I suppose it went with the territory...

Below ▼ are scans of the cool 'flash card' practice kit included in the booklet, for honing your skills at matching names and data with faces.

Click on the images to get the memorable details on all of these folks.


"Edward Stoddard is an advertising and publishing executive as well as an outstanding memory expert.
"He is the author of a number of books, including works on such varied subjects as power, electronics and magic.
"It is as a close student of stage magic, in fact, that Mr. Stoddard first became interested in the techniques employed by the world's leading memory experts.
"He has himself mastered memory techniques so thoroughly that he is in frequent demand for stage demonstrations.
"This booklet presents his expert knowledge in a form especially designed for rapid learning and for practical application to business and social uses."


ally. said...

sorry ... and you are...?

i shall be practicing these till i can remember where i live

Anonymous said...

This is cool, and actually really helpful!

Freshly-stirred links