With the Christmas party season fast approaching, there will be plenty of opportunities to relive the familiar, and excruciatingly-awkward, social situation of not being able to remember an acquaintance's name.

This cringe-worthy experience leads many of us to believe we are terrible at remembering names.

However, new research out of the UK has revealed this intuition is misleading; we are actually better at remembering names than faces.

The authors of the study, from the University of York, suggest that when we castigate ourselves for forgetting someone's name we are placing unfair demands on our brains.
Remembering a person's face in this situation relies on recognition, but remembering their name is a matter of recall, and it is already well-established that human beings are much better at the former than the latter.

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The researchers also point out that we only become aware that we have forgotten a name when we have already recognised the face.

We rarely have to confront the problem of knowing a name, but not a face - remaining blissfully unaware of the countless faces we should recognise, but walk straight past on the street.

For the study, the researchers designed a "fair test," pitting names against faces on a level playing field.

They set up an experiment to place equal demands on the ability of participants to remember faces and names by testing both in a game of recognition.

The results showed participants scored consistently higher at remembering names than faces - recognising as little as 64 per cent of faces and up to 83 per cent of names in the tests.

"Our study suggests that, while many people may be bad at remembering names, they are likely to be even worse at remembering faces," study author Dr Rob Jenkins said.

"This will surprise many people as it contradicts our intuitive understanding.

"Our life experiences with names and faces have misled us about how our minds work, but if we eliminate the double standards we are placing on memory, we start to see a different picture."

Babies laugh like… chimps

Babies laugh as they both exhale and inhale - in a manner that is remarkably similar to nonhuman primates. Photo / 123RF
Babies laugh as they both exhale and inhale - in a manner that is remarkably similar to nonhuman primates. Photo / 123RF

Few things can delight an adult more easily than the uninhibited, effervescent laughter of a baby.

Yet baby laughter, a new study shows, differs from adult laughter in a key way: babies laugh as they both exhale and inhale, in a manner that is remarkably similar to nonhuman primates.

A team led by Associate Professor Disa Sauter, of the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, looked at laughter clips taken from 44 infants and children between three and 18 months of age.

The recordings, taken from online videos in which babies were engaged in playful interactions, were analysed by 102 listeners, recruited from a psychology student population, who evaluated the extent to which the laughs in each clip were produced on the exhale versus the inhale.

Sauter and her colleagues found that the youngest babies commonly laughed on both inhalation and exhalation, as do nonhuman primates like chimpanzees.

In the older babies studied, however, laughter was primarily produced only on the exhale, as is the case in older children and adults.

"Adult humans sometimes laugh on the inhale but the proportion is markedly different from that of infants' and chimps' laughs," Sauter said.

"Our results so far suggest that this is a gradual, rather than a sudden, shift."

She noted, however, that these results were based on the judgments of non-expert listeners.

"We are currently checking those results against judgments by phoneticians, who are making detailed annotations of the laughter."

Selfies worsen narcissism

Narcissism is a personality characteristic that can involve grandiose exhibitionism, beliefs relating to entitlement, and exploiting others. Photo / 123RF
Narcissism is a personality characteristic that can involve grandiose exhibitionism, beliefs relating to entitlement, and exploiting others. Photo / 123RF

Here's something perhaps less surprising.

A new study has established that excessive use of social media, in particular, the posting of images and selfies, is associated with a subsequent increase in narcissism.

It looked at personality changes of 74 individuals aged 18 to 34 over a four-month period, and also assessed their use of social media, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, during that same period.

Narcissism is a personality characteristic that can involve grandiose exhibitionism, beliefs relating to entitlement, and exploiting others.

Those who used social media excessively, through visual postings, displayed an average 25 per cent increase in such narcissistic traits over the four months of the study.

This increase took many of these participants above the clinical cut-off for narcissistic personality disorder, according to the measurement scale used.

The study also found that those who primarily used social media for verbal postings, such as Twitter, did not show these effects.

However, for this group of people, their initial levels of narcissism predicted a growth in this form of social media usage over time.

The more narcissistic they were to begin with, the more verbal postings they made later.

All but one of the people in the study used social media, and their average use was about three hours a day, excluding usage for work, but some reported using social media for as much as eight hours a day for non-work related purposes.

Facebook was used by 60 per cent of the sample, 25 per cent used Instagram, and 13 per cent used Twitter and Snapchat each.

Over two-thirds of the participants primarily used social media for posting images.

"There have been suggestions of links between narcissism and the use of visual postings on social media, such as Facebook, but, until this study, it was not known if narcissists use this form of social media more, or whether using such platforms is associated with the subsequent growth in narcissism," said study leader Professor Phil Reed, of Swansea University in the UK.

"The results of this study suggest that both occur, but show that posting selfies can increase narcissism.

"Taking our sample as representative of the population, which there is no reason to doubt, this means that about 20 per cent of people may be at risk of developing such narcissistic traits associated with their excessive visual social media use.

"That the predominant usage of social media for the participants was visual, mainly through Facebook, suggests the growth of this personality problem could be seen increasingly more often unless we recognise the dangers in this form of communication."