Ebbinghaus' Curve of Forgetting - How to Maintain Knowledge Long term

A great curve to show how our memories are volatile.

Ebbinghaus' Curve of Forgetting - How to Maintain Knowledge Long term
Photo by Aaron Burden / Unsplash

The German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus developed a personal experiment to check his memory and learning.

He generated 2300 three-letter combinations, nonsensical, not real words. And then he would:

  • Set down to memorize a bunch.
  • Regularly tested himself.
  • If he couldn't recall a word, note how many days has it been since he memorized it.

He discovered that he forgot things pretty quickly, within 20 min of memorizing, he forgot about 40% of them.

He forgot the majority of words very FAST, but the rate of forgetfulness decreased as time went on.

But the ones that he didn't forget were lodged in his memory, seemingly permanently.

The curve of his forgetfulness is the one below:


What does that mean for you and me? You'll forget most of what you learned very fast, but there is a way to prevent it.  Spaced Repetition.

Spaced repetition is a must for anything you want to learn and keep as a ready-to-use tool by your brain. It prevents the curve of forgetfulness and allows you to stay sharp with the knowledge you're constantly revisiting.

Here's the curve if you constantly review the information:


Spaced repetition can happen whilst: learning on your own or at your work/school. You can find it's easier to remember things you regularly discuss with friends or things you use every day to study/work.

And I've got special news If you find trouble retaining knowledge on important information you read online (be it books, articles, etc). You might find that Read + Readwise could be an online ally for ya, it's a great product that I use to test myself on highlights I've made on books in my Kindle and cement the knowledge.

If you're curious about how I use these apps, feel free to check out this post:

That is it for today, let me know your thoughts down below!

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