Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What is the "Baker Effect" and how do you fix it?

This is likely the first of several posts about things that used to make me feel inadequate only to find out that I'm not weirdo. But there is a reason that I (and many others...thank god I'm not alone!) do what I do and it is not my fault!

By the way...the "I do" up there in the image is hopefully not a time that the Baker Effect strikes. That would be embarrassing!

In all seriousness, there were in fact several things that I experienced growing up and throughout my life that were different than what others experienced. Or I was clearly less skilled at something than others and I consistently wondered what was wrong with me. Well, if you've read any of my other posts or have extrapolated from the title of my blog you've probably guessed that feeling this way does not lead one to feeling good about one's self, and thus less likely to live authentically.

So. One of things at which I am quite terrible is remembering people's names. It seemed as if no matter what I did I could not reliably remember the names of people I just met, whereas others who after having met me for five seconds (I may or may not be exaggerating) several months later could remembered my name, the name of my cat, and what I was wearing. After a enough of these experiences I finally came to a conclusion about my inability to remember other people's names: I just didn't care. That didn't feel very good.

Turns out I was partly right about "not caring." Enter the Baker Effect.

So what is the Baker Effect?

We can remember faces pretty well but names tend to be more difficult. Our brains are just wired that way. Also, when we're around people we are not terribly likely to ever see again we simply may not care enough to try to remember.

The Baker Effect says that if you tell someone that your job is a baker then we have all kinds of mental associations to being a baker that helps us remember the idea of being a baker. We think things like "Oh! they must have access to all the frosting they can eat!" or "I bet they break out a huge stick of butter and slather it on the rolls as soon as they come out of the oven...I want to be a baker."

Basically, we create little stories that goes with this type of information about the person. If, however, someone says their name is Baker there are usually no associations that pop up that go with someone's name since names are random. Our brains require one piece of information to be linked to other pieces of information in order to have a better shot at remembering it.

Here's the link to a Huffington Post article and video that describes name forgetting further.

The good news is there are pretty easy, straight forward strategies we can use to remember people's names.

How do I thwart the Baker Effect?

Turns out it really does take effort for most of us to remember names of people we just met. We really do have to care enough to work at it. Those of you who are good at remembering names may recognize many of these tricks and have already been taught how to use them or naturally developed them out of your own desire to avoid that awkward moment when you're supposed to introduce someone whose name you can't remember to someone else. [That happened to me at my own wedding reception. Awkward!].

Here are seven strategies further described in a video by AsapTHOUGHT here.

  1. Pay attention (ask them to repeat it)
  2. Use their name and repeat it often (Hey Joe. Pass the salt Joe. What time is it Joe. You get the idea...Joe) 
  3. Make associations (e.g., who do they remind you of, who else do you know with the same name)
  4. Word play (mnemonic devices) (e.g., alliteration, rhymes)
  5. Spell out their name (ask them do spell it or you can imagine it being spelled out on a type writer or piece of paper)
  6. Help them remember your name (give them an association between your name and something else)
  7. Introduce someone else you do know (and hope the other person offers their name on their own!)

If you struggle to remember names like I do. Try not to beat yourself up and worry that there is something wrong with you - maybe that's just me. Either way developing an understand about why you do what you do can be exceedingly helpful. And learning that there is a reasonable explanation for it can help free you up to focus energy on things that help you grow and live authentically.

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