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Hermann Ebbinghaus



HermannEbbinghaus connected ideas by doing experiments about memory. Hedesired to understand how the brain functions hence conductedquantitative studies on the memory. The research was conductedbetween 1879 and 1880 and another from 1883 to 1884. The studyexplored the quickness of grasping a number of syllables varying inlength, the speed of learning due to the meaningful material, andretention capability as a function of time. Apart from that, theresearch strived to understand the speed of retention due to repeatedlearning.

Whileconducting the experiments, he used himself as the subject ofexamination. He developed around 2,300 one-syllableconsonant-vowel-consonant arrangements like bok, lef, and taz toenable the grasping without considering meaning. He then distributedthe syllables into sequences which he memorized them in a fixedstate. He then recorded the amount of time he took to memorize thewords accurately. Hermann then varied the states to obtain theeffects of different conditions. Using variables like list length,the number of repetitions, and speed, he recorded the findings underdifferent conditions. He also researched on features involved in theretention process. In this state, he monitored the initial timerequired to memorize and the second attempt after a certain time like24 hours [ CITATION Wei11 l 1033 ].

Accordingto the findings, there existed a regular forgetting curve. The firstphase showed a steep decline in the memorization levels. However, thecurve slowly leveled with considerable effort. As such, subsequentmemorization appeared to be much quicker. Hermann also experimentedon the immediate memory. The results showed that a subject couldremember roughly six to eight objects after the initial observationof the list. Apart from that, he considered the learning rates ofmeaningless and meaningful material. He affirmed that meaningfulitems like sentences or words could be grasped much easier thannonsense things. His tests also bore observations on the value ofuniformly memorization contrary to the mass approach. Whileconducting the tests, he realized that one reading was enough for himto memorize fewer syllables as opposed to longer lists. Therefore,longer lists required multiple readings to attain perfection. Thisobservation implied that the capability of immediate memory limitedthe retention process [ CITATION Wei11 l 1033 ].


Herman’sfindings can be summarized in three key trends i.e. specific effects,serial effects, and the forgetting curve. In the first case, Hermanestablished that he could understand most of the information byreading syllables bit by bit. Instead of grasping too muchinformation at once, distributed mechanism is much better. This isparticularly true in the practical world. One can perform well inexams by reviewing a small amount of the material daily rather thanspending more hours cramming the same. The serial position effectsuggests that one can remember the last items in the list more thanthe first ones. The last presented syllables have a high chance ofsticking than the first ones. The third trend is the forgettingcurve. According to this finding, after learning a few syllables, onetends to forget rapidly at first, and then slowly. The syllables thatstick in the memory after the initial decay remains in the memory.This aspect can be observed in the current learning system. Theknowledge that sticks after subsequent memorization probably stays inthe memory. On the other hand, the items that do not stick after thesubsequent processes decay. However, the degree of decay may varyacross different subjects.


Weibell, C. J. (2011). Principles of learning: 7 principles to guide personalized, student-centered learning in the technology-enhanced, blended learning environment. Retrieved from https://principlesoflearning.wordpress.com/dissertation/chapter-3-literature-review-2/the-cognitive-perspective/memory-and-forgetting-hermann-ebbinghaus-1885/