The Ebbinghaus Curve: How to Hack Your Memory and Remember up to 95% of Information

In an hour, you will forget up to 60% of any information you just received. And after a week no more than 10% will be remembered. Regrettably, it’s true.

Human memory obeys certain patterns that the scientist Ebbinghaus brought to the end of the 19th century. And if you know the mechanisms by which memory works, then you can hack it and remember up to 95% of all the information that passes through you.

How to do it? Consider this article using an example of learning English.


How does memory work?

The ability to forget is one of the most important human skills. Without it, the brain would be overloaded with unnecessary data and work with terrible lags. Just like a computer in which Temp files were never deleted and hard drives were not defragmented.

Scientists have calculated that the amount of memory in the human brain is about a few petabytes (1 petabyte – 1,024 terabytes – 1,048,576 gigabytes).

But even such a huge storage would be clogged after 30 years of continuous video recording in Full-HD and the constant analysis of huge data arrays. And we still do not take into account systemic functions such as controlling the respiration and heartbeat, production and accounting of hormones, counteracting diseases and thousands of other small but vital processes that occur continuously in the body.

So the ability to forget information is akin to throwing informational garbage out of your head.

The only problem is that the article “information garbage” often also contains the necessary data, which we try to remember. In the brain, you can’t mark the “system files” flag. Oddly enough, we don’t have root access.

The human brain can also be divided into operational and long-term memory – computer analogies are well suited here. In 1885, the German psychologist German Ebbinghaus determined in a practical way how exactly information from the operational system gets into long-term memory.

This process can be expressed in a simple schedule.

The human memory is quite limited. Its rather accurate analogue in psychology can be considered the amount of attention.

The amount of attention shows how many objects the brain can perceive at the same time or how many actions can be performed simultaneously.

The average attention of an adult is 7 ± 2 units. If you extrapolate this to the study of languages, then any person without special difficulties can learn 5 new words at the same time. And with the proper level of training and 10 new words.

But with one-time contact with information, new neural connections are created extremely poorly, so the efficiency of memorization will be low. The final result will be remembered no more than 10%.

The best way to memorize large amounts of information for a short time is cramming. No wonder many students prepare for exams in one night. But cramming acts only on the RAM, the information does not fall into the long-term and is forgotten after a week.

For information to be remembered for a long time, you need to use other tools and features of the brain.

Memorization mechanisms and what affects them

Ebbinghaus analyzed pure memory – the process of memorization, which is not affected by the functions of thinking. But in real life this does not happen.

Thinking and attitude to the stored information plays a huge role. And different information will be remembered at different speeds. You can even do a little experiment.

  • To fully remember the lyrics of a song that you like, you just need to listen to it a couple of times. Simply steamed turnip.
  • To learn a not too long verse, you need to read it a couple of dozen times and recite it out loud. The work of the mind is felt, but everything is quite simple.
  • To learn two dozen unrelated numbers or syllables, you will have to work very hard. That’s right, very strong. But still, these meaningless datasets will be forgotten extremely quickly.

This is the influence of thinking. The more interesting the information, the faster the neural connections in the brain are created, and the better it is remembered. The same Ebbinghaus determined that meaningful memorization is 9 times more effective than memorization. That is, if something is interesting to you, you will learn it 9 times faster and better than anything that does not cause any emotions.

But the reality is that far from all the information we need is interesting. And “interesting” is a very subjective concept. What is interesting to one will be boring to the second.

Learning foreign languages ​​is simultaneously based on two pillars:

  • Make language learning interesting and connect thinking mechanisms to memorization.
  • To make the process of memorization as effective as possible where it is impossible to connect the mechanisms of thinking.

In EnglishDom, for example, we achieve this with several global tools:

Analysis of the student’s Big Data allows you to see and use non-obvious moments of training for each individual student. The system monitors and analyzes all the student’s actions, his answers and the dynamics of the study, on the basis of which he forms a lesson plan. For example, a person often makes mistakes in phrasal verbs. The system sees this, so in the future it gives him more exercises for phrasal verbs. And so on, until their ownership improves sufficiently.

Gamification of training at the same time preserves the level of motivation and maintains it at a high level thanks to interesting content and case studies. The student learns the language in a playful way, completing quests. In addition, the competitive moment is also added by the user rating system and reward badges for completing courses and a good workout.

Learning mechanics that take into account the Ebbinghaus curve are used to remember rules, irregular verbs, vocabulary, various idioms and a huge number of nuances of the language that are very difficult to make interesting.

How to hack your memory

Ebbinghaus not only deduced the patterns by which memory works. He also defined a way to memorize up to 95% of information.

It’s all about rational repetition. The scientist found that repeating information at certain intervals of time allows you to increase the efficiency of memorization by 8-9 times.

If in “normal” memory mode a maximum of 10% of the data remains in a week, then after 5 iterations of repetitions – up to 95%.

The main thing is to choose the right time for repetitions. Let’s look at an example of learning English vocabulary.

  • 0 repetition – study.
  • 1 repetition – immediately after study.
  • 2 repetitions – 10-20 minutes after the first.
  • 3 repetition – 8-12 hours after the second.
  • 4 repetition – 24-32 hours after the third.
  • 5 repetition – 3-5 days after the fourth.

As you can see, the visual graph of the efficiency of memorization becomes similar to the graph of a power function, which tends to 100%. That is, the time between iterations of repetitions increases significantly.

If you continue the schedule, then the sixth repetition can be done in a month, and the seventh in four months. This is in case information will need to be remembered for a lifetime.

But when learning English vocabulary in this way, there is one difficulty – taking into account all the learned words and their repetitions. If you do it yourself, then the very meaning of the “memory hack” is lost, because in order to note the repetition of 300 words, you need to spend tens of times more time than studying them.

It was this problem that made the study of data on the Ebbinghaus ineffective in foreign languages ​​earlier. But now it’s easy to keep track of repetitions on a smartphone. You only need to spend 15-20 minutes a day working with words, and the processor will carry out organizational work.

We conducted analytics of over 1,500 users who installed application for learning English vocabulary ED Words on the Google Play and App Store and have been using it for more than 3 months. Subject to the repetition schedule, users learned from 150 to 300 new English words per month, spending on average 16 minutes per class.

And if you combine this technique with the study of vocabulary in practice and with the help of examples selected for the interests of each particular student, then the effectiveness of training increases significantly.

Moreover, it works not only with vocabulary, but also with any other information that needs to be learned. Rules, idioms, irregular verbs, phrasal verbs, slang – all this can be studied using the method of rational repetitions of Ebbinghaus. Take on arms, use and learn English with pleasure.

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