The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve is considered a significant indication of how the brain processes information. It has been referenced by various scholars in the analysis of intervals within which information must be consolidated to be retained. However, the question still stands; Is the Forgetting Curve a myth?
Hermann Ebbinghaus transformed learning theory in 1885 when he produced the curve (fig. 1), dictating the rate at which our memory declines. However, many have found exceptions in the ability of learners to retain recently absorbed knowledge.
Fig. 1. Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve
Although Ebbinghaus’ findings have been proven valid, there are myriad factors that impact individual’s ability to remember new information.
1. Prior knowledge
Having knowledge previously stored in the memory facilitates an advantage to the learner, allowing for a more seamless learning process when new knowledge is presented.
2. Degree of importance
The importance of the knowledge must be communicated to learners, as the more detrimental they think the information is to their job, the more they will revise, remember and recall course content.
3. Individual capability
People’s strengths and weaknesses are prevalent in different areas, meaning remembering information comes easy to some more than others.
4. General awareness
Being aware of surroundings and having an adequate understanding of general knowledge further enhances the memorisation ability of learners. This is due to them being able to ‘fit in’ the newly learnt material into previous situations or relate it to familiar commodity.
5. The effect of repetition
The extent to which the learner retains new information is dependent on how often the material is revised or presented to the learner in an educational climate.
6. Frequency of retrieval
The frequency of information retrieval is heavily determinant of the percentage of knowledge which will be stored in long-term memory.
What does it have to do with spaced repetition?
Spaced repetition is a core concept of microlearning magic and directly uses the findings of the forgetting curve as its basis. It diminishes our brains’ ‘use it or lose it’ policy, in which the average brain can withhold between 3-5 new pieces of information at any given time.
EdApp utilises spaced repetition in its microlessons to counteract the effect of the Forgetting Curve. Using spaced repetition, learners’ retention of new knowledge is significantly increased, resulting in information storing itself in long-term memory. After information builds up in our long-term memories, material joins together in the form of large chunks to create a holistic concept.
From our findings amongst extensive studies conducted by psychologists and scientists, it is safe to say that NO, the Forgetting Curve is not a myth.