How can you assimilate the necessary information once and for all, how not to put unnecessary knowledge in your head? Surely such questions torment not only students and representatives of mental labor. The German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus gave the answer back in the 19th century. He built the so-called «forgetting curve».

What it is?

The German was interested in how a person’s memory works, what he remembers and forgets in the first place, and what is more difficult. In order to understand this process, the scientist conducted various experiments. For starters, he gave his wards the task of learning a series of completely meaningless syllables. He composed them from two consonants and one vowel.

One of the conditions was complete nonsense — combinations of sounds should not have caused an association with any existing word. Therefore, he suggested such syllables as «ken», «hat», «zyf», «chuts», «fut» and so on.

The task of the subjects was to memorize them one hundred percent and pronounce them without a single hesitation. Moreover, this was always done at the same time, under the same external conditions.

Thus, an enthusiastic psychologist tried to exclude factors influencing the process of memorization from the outside — nothing affects the process itself.

If the set of meaningless words ended, then the scientist changed their places and asked those present to learn them too. After the participants of the experiment coped with the task, they had another test. Repeat an unrelated speech after a certain amount of time. So Hermann Ebbinghaus discovered his curve, which reflects the process of forgetting information by a person. The graph looks like this.

The fastest way for our brain to part with information is within an hour of receiving it. It cuts off most of the about 60% unnecessary information. After 10 hours, he leaves only 35% of the text we memorized. But then the process slows down a lot. Even after 6 days, about 20% remains in the head a set of syllables received almost a week ago.

Interestingly, this result remains virtually unchanged and in a month. The brain will still produce 20% of the set of sounds. However, this was not the only purpose of the study.

There were several tasks.

  • To study how much, in principle, the human brain is ready to contain.
  • Find out what needs to be done to extend the retention time of this information. The German specialist used the repetition method for this.
  • Set repetition periods for better memorization of information.
  • Find out how the information should be arranged so that it is easier to remember.


Repetition techniques


To break the laws of forgetting, obtained as a result of constructing his curve, Ebbinghaus derived another rule — the preservation of the information received.

In the Russian interpretation, it sounds like this: «repetition is the mother of learning.»

Now psychologists advise two schedules of repetitions. The first one is best for those who needs to get the job done quickly, and the information they received does not have to remain in memory forever.

The second is more suitable for those who have time to study and the need to use this knowledge for many years.

The «quick» method is designed for two days. The scheme is like this.

  1. The first repetition is done immediately after the book is closed.
  2. Repeat the second must be done after 20 minutes.
  3. The third repetition should take place 8 hours after the second.
  4. The fourth repetition is carried out exactly one day after the third.

The method for a longer and more thorough memorization at first is not much different from the “faster” one, but then be more careful and patient, everything looks like this.

  1. The first repetition is carried out immediately after reading.
  2. Repeat the second one after 20 minutes. It is possible to increase the interval up to half an hour.
  3. The third takes place the next day.
  4. Repeat the fourth after another 2 weeks. It is possible to increase the interval up to 3 weeks.
  5. The fifth repetition must be done after 2 months. It is possible to increase the interval up to 3 months.


But if you need to “register” some knowledge in your memory for a long time, a scheme is suitable for you, which was developed by the Americans Bob Sullivan and Hugh Thompson. To use such a scheme, however, It is worth entering all the dates of execution in the diary. The one on your phone will also work and be even more convenient, the electronic diary will give you a signal to act.


The chart looks like this.

  1. The first repetition is carried out 5 seconds after reading the information you need.
  2. The second repetition is made after another 25 seconds.
  3. The third repetition should be done 2 or 3 minutes after the second.
  4. The fourth occurs after 10 minutes.
  5. Do the fifth repetition in another hour.
  6. Do not forget to make the sixth after 5 hours.
  7. Repetition number 7 should take place in a day.
  8. Repeat the eighth after 5 days.
  9. The repetition of number 9 occurs when another 25 days have passed (that is, a month after the first acquaintance with the material).
  10. The tenth repetition is carried out after another 4 months.
  11. Repetition number 11 is the final one. Must be done after 2 years.


If you use such a schedule, then the information you learn will remain with you for the rest of your life.


There are a few other tricks that the human brain has failed to hide from scientists.


Patterns of memorization


You will be able to use the developments of scientists more effectively in terms of facilitating memorization if you know exactly what patterns exist for remembering information. There are several of them, they are quite simple.

  • A person remembers more and better meaningful texts than the same Ebbinghaus syllables, for example. I wonder if all of his subjects went through the experiment to the end? Perhaps some could not withstand such an attack on the brain. The so-called «cramming» is much less effective than meaningful memorization.
  • The amount of information and the rate of memorization are not directly dependent on each other. That is, learning two poems is not at all twice as difficult as one. This will take more time and energy than simply multiplying both by two. The more — the longer and more difficult.
  • The number of repetitions should be limited. Rather, there will be no sense from excessive zeal. It is not worth reading for the hundredth time an excerpt from a book that you have already read to holes. The result will be no different from the one you got after the twentieth repetition, it will not get better.
  • The information that we really need is stored in our head for much longer than the information that we need just to pass the exam. Therefore, if you want to remember something well, find a practical subsequent use for it in life.
  • The volume of stored information in a certain period of time will be greater if this same information is diverse. Change the topics of tasks, alternate them and then it will be easier for you to cope.
  • It is better to remember what is at the beginning and closes the material. Check for yourself, ask someone to make you a list of 10 any words. Someone to ask? Use the following set: «a light bulb, a keyboard, a forest, a shop, a desk, a rag, a head, a computer, a broom, a garden.» Close your eyes and try to reproduce what you read.

With a high degree of probability, the first thing that comes to your mind will be the words «light bulb» and «bed». By the way, the discovery of this pattern is also attributed to Hermann Ebbinghaus. In his writings, it is called the edge effect.

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