The Secret Power of The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve

Why We Forget What We Learn and How To Become a Repetition Wizard

Ever sat through a training session and, one week later, found you could barely recall what it was about? Turns out, you're not alone, and no, it's not just a "you" thing. Today's episode delves into a phenomena that’s been haunting learners and educators for over a century: the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve.

Meet Hermann Ebbinghaus
Ebbinghaus was a 19th-century German psychologist fascinated by memory. He devised experiments where people had to memorize words and then tested their retention rates over time. His groundbreaking discovery? A mere seven days after the learning process, participants had forgotten an astonishing 90% of what they had learned. Ebbinghaus graphically represented this pattern of forgetting, which has since been named the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve.

So What's the Problem?
The real shocker here isn’t just that we forget — it’s how quickly we forget. Within one week, 90% of what you've learned vanishes from your mind. That's like trying to fill a leaky bucket! It’s a haunting prospect for trainers, teachers, and L&D professionals.

Why Don't We Notice?
You might ask, how come we don't realize how much we're forgetting? Simple: you can't remember what you've forgotten! This might sound like a loop, but it's crucial to understand this aspect to get why constant revision and practice are essential.

Is Ebbinghaus Up for Debate?
Yes, some argue that Ebbinghaus' experiments weren't perfect. For example, he tested with "nonsense words," terms without any meaning, to neutralize any emotional connections. But this very critique paves the way for a crucial teaching insight: emotion and meaning play significant roles in retention.

Injecting Emotion and Meaning
Perhaps you can relate. If you're passionate about a subject, you're more likely to remember it. The emotional and meaningful engagement you have with learning material can combat the forgetfulness dictated by the Ebbinghaus Curve.

Be a Repetition Wizard
Ebbinghaus also found that repetition can significantly slow down the forgetting process. In our line of work, this means that L&D professionals have to be repetition wizards. Breaking down a single day of training into multiple sessions spread over weeks is far more effective than a one-off day.

More Than Just Classroom Learning
It's hightime we move beyond traditional one or two-day training sessions, especially with various tools and platforms available for workplace learning. Think e-learning, social learning, and micro learning.

The FinalWord

- Evaluation should go beyond 'satisfaction' and focus on real-world application.
- Structure matters; it's not always about learning or training.
- Without meaning and repetition, retention is limited.
- Training should always be results-oriented.

Let’s not allow our carefully designed training programs to go in one ear and out the other. With the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve in mind, we can strive to be repetition wizards and create educational experiences that stick.

Ready to transform your approach to learning and development? Then it's time to ditch the Boring and make learning memorable and impactful! 

For questions or specific challenges you’re facing, feel free to send them our way at hello@brainbakery.com.





The Secret Power of The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve

16 min