Unlock your brain's full potential
A person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
Dale Carnegie - How to win friends and influence people
A person's name is an entire part of their identity, their individuality. But to memorize people's names is harder than any other type of words and personal information. However, that's something really important to memorize names. It creates better relationships between persons. It highly impacts the way people feel valued and comfortable speaking with someone.
Each time we are meeting new people, we are confronted with learning new faces and names. Today, we will focus on a specific moment that makes that accuracy essential: When a teacher has to memorize the names of a new promotion. We will find some opportunities to design a solution and help Noa to memorize their new students' names as fast as possible.
Let's meet Noa
We will focus on one persona today, Noa. She is a great person, with several professional experiences. For her, human is in the middle of everything. That's why, as coach and teacher, she loves to know the name of anyone she works with.
Noa will start soon a new chapter of her life.
She will be teaching, for 2 semesters, at La Sorbonne in Paris.
She'll have to meet approximately 150 young adults and adults each semester. One of the most important things for her is to consider each person, so she would love to memorize a lot of names.
But how to remember so many faces and names?
The ability to learn and remember proper names, particularly people's names, is notoriously the most difficult, relative to other types of words
Lise Abrams and Danielle K. Davis - Current Directions in Psychological Science
Why is it that hard to memorize people's name?
1 - It's hard to create unlogical connections
Imagine you meet an old man. He has a beautiful white beard. He introduces himself as Mr. Whitebeard.
It will be easy to memorize his name. The connection between his name and his person is logical to your brain. You just have to think about what you see and your mind will basically bring you the corresponding word.
But in reality, it's hard to memorize a name because there are absolutely no logical connections between a name and a face.
That's the first reason why this is so hard to remind someone's name.
Moreover, most of the time, you already know other persons with the same name, and it makes nothing easier. Sorry, Carlos.
2 - It's hard to focus
That's what psychologists call "the next in line effect".
You are meeting new people, Carlos is part of them. But while you shake his hand, you think about something else. "How do I introduce myself?", "how much time does it ask to have that beard?", etc.
That's a classic story, the main reason we don't retain names is that we are actually disturbed by internal and external factors of distraction.
3 - The lack of will
The brain doesn't have to do a lot of effort when you really want to know the name of someone.
But, in case you don't put that effort, you'll easily memorize information like this person's favorite sport, his job, because the connection is easy. This is called "the baker effect"
From what we know, to help people to learn people's names faster we have to:
- Help them to focus on a task
- Help users to create connections between names and faces
- Give them tips and good practices
We have different questions that we would love to get answered during an exercise:
- Is it enough to help the user to focus to help him memorize the names?
- Is there a difference between memorizing a name vs a name + surname?
And we had two goals:
Understand how people are creating connections between names and faces.
Try to make them learn 18 names as fast as possible.
Why 18 names?
We know our persona, Noa, will be in front of 150 persons. But, studies prove that this is easier to learn numerous data by dividing them, to have better memorization, and also to make sure the user will be encouraged regularly during his learning.
User research process
A 5 steps test from which we learned a lot.
Our support is pretty basic. A list of 18 faces, women, men. Printed on a piece of paper, the 2 first lines are hidden by post-its, having the person's name on them. To understand the impact caused by the discovery of the name before the face, the third line has no post-it at the beginning of the experience.
1. NAMES AND FACES
First, we asked the user to point with his finger a name.
Then, he had to read the name. When he was ready, the post-it was completely removed.
We did that operation for the first "box" of 6 names. (Melanie, Thomas, Thibault, George Powell, Karim Mechoud, Karine Lampard). Each time a little quiz proceeded.
Result: For most of our users, it has been easy to give 6/6 names (and surnames), the worst result has been 4/6 names.
For instance, one of the interviewed decided to draw a mustache to one of the women, Renee, because he thought it was the name of a man.
2. NAMES AND FACES + CONNECTIONS
This time, once the post-it was removed, the user was invited to draw something on the picture. This way, he was creating a link between the name and the face. Studies show the best way to remind a name is to create a connection between the name and the face. That mnemonic approach would be great as it imposes to the user to imagine a way to see a name on a face.
Result: For our 5 interviewed: 6/6
3. FACES AND NAMES + CONNECTIONS
The exercise is the opposite of the ones we've done so far. The user looks at the face, but this time, each time a post-it is added. On the three last ones, the user is invited to draw something on the picture to help him to create a link between the name and the face.
Result: Hard for all the interviewed to memorize the two first names.
4. FULL TEST!
In the end, a full quiz is done with all the faces. On the right, you can see a mapping of the average results.
Green represents a name that is given correctly Red represents a name that is wrong or forgot
- 100% of the "connected" names were still in mind.
- The names and last names were still in mind for the faces having both information.
- The last line was hardest to learn than the first one, it could be explained by the fact the effort is higher at the beginning of the exercise.
5. CONNECTIONS EVERYWHERE
Then, we allowed the interviewee to find and draw a connection on each face. Sometimes they need our help to understand how to do it. "Do you know another person with that name? Ok, try to draw something on her that makes you think of that person too".
It has been surprising to see people that are not creative in their day-to-day position, find really good ideas.
Some results were incredible, here's my favorite one, "Karine", the user drew a steering wheel. This way, she's in a car: Car In.
Between ten and twenty minutes after the beginning of the exercise, we were proposing an ultimate quiz.
For this one, the faces were not displayed in the same order, to be sure the user wasn't only remembering a list, but creating links with faces. Seeing the results, we've also done that test with the interviewed one hour after the first test, and the result was the same.
The first question of the interview was: How much time would you need to remind 18 faces and names?
The answer going from "an afternoon" until "two weeks", all our users were overestimating that effort.
They've been able to do it in approximately 10 minutes.
With the user test, we defined a way to help people to create fast connections between names and faces.
Actually, our quick test validated the work of Gary Small, UCLA Professor of Psychiatry and director of UCLA's (the Memory and Aging Research Center). Look at the name - Snap the face - Connect them.
This will be in the middle of our memorization of names feature. (We started to define an entire flow that you can see here. But we thought it made it more sense to focus on the following part of the app).
Building user lists
In the context of our user Noa, the best case would be that the university is having a B2B account with our app, allowing them
to upload their students' information ensuring the quality of the experience for everyone, while ensuring data security.
I've built many lo-fi prototypes in order to understand how that feature would have the best interaction design possible,
from a journey focused on the feature to a broader app helping users with memorizing anything.