How badly it is to forget things

Forgetting curve: Hardly learned, already forgotten

Today you will learn something that you have probably forgotten after four days: the Ebbinghaus’s forgetting curve. Do not you know? Definitely just omitted! This is exactly what the German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus found out in self-experiments: after around 20 minutes, people have already forgotten 40 percent of what they have just learned. After an hour, the half-life of knowledge drops to 45 percent, after a day we remember at most a third (34 percent) of the imprinted content. Also remarkable: after only six days, our memory has shrunk to 23 percent (see graphic) - in the long term we only retain 15 percent of what we have learned. So, now try to save these numbers permanently ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Ebbinghaus’s forgetting curve: Why do we forget?

Indeed it is To forget hugely dependent on what we are trying to learn. Your own birthday, your friend's cell phone number, the URL - all of this is easy to remember.

But already at Wedding day, account number or PIN get many problems:

  • Supposedly keep it student after three to six days up to 90 percent of the learned vocabulary is still in your head.
  • Adults on the other hand, 25 percent of a poem are forgotten after just one day, and half are gone after five days.
  • At prose the curve of forgetting is even steeper: after a day, 53 percent of the content is lost.

Unfortunately, you never know in advance which pieces of knowledge will steal away from our gray cells over time, so that we have to deal with the threatening ones Evaporation of knowledge to oppose, only have two alternatives: to come to terms with it - or suitable ones Counter-strategies develop.

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Mnemonics against the forgetting curve

A suggestion that, by the way, people in antiquity already had. And so, for example, Mnemosyne, the Greek goddess of memory, still stands today as a symbol for various techniques to which she gave her name, mnemomics, or rather the Mnemonics.

In order to develop it, however, one first had to understand how memorizing works. Roughly speaking, nerve connections, so-called nerve connections, are made every time Synapses, newly short-circuited. Crucial for that Retention is then how many different connections there are to this or that term: The more alternatives the brain has to find the word it is looking for, the faster we can load it into consciousness from the farthest corner of our gray cells.

This realization can of course be targeted as Memory training use. When memorizing, it is important to create as many and strong synapse connections as possible and at the same time to save colors, shapes, images, smells, noises, feelings and stories for the learning material.

But what is also important for all memorization is that Learning time to split up. Cramming ten minutes a day for four weeks (around 300 minutes) is significantly more effective than studying five hours (around 300 minutes) in one day.

Forgetting curve: keep more for longer

Tips how you can keep new knowledge more and longer ...

  1. Write it down.

    Sure, the tip is not new, but it is effective. When we write down things that we want to remember, we also transform them into our own words that mean more to us. But the letters also become pictures that we can also remember better.

    The talented among you can of course really paint a little picture out of it. Having drawn mnemonics creates a sensual experience for your brain. The scent of the paper or the solvents in the pen create additional sensual impressions that are all related to what has been learned. Try to memorize these impressions as well.

  2. Repeat it.

    Every day there are countless tasks that require your full attention. That distracts - and your concentration on new stimuli. So that what you have learned does not fade away, you should bring it back to your eyes from time to time, skim through the notepad again, recite the most important points from your head.

  3. Learn to relax.

    Constant tension just blocks you at some point. It is better to learn if you regularly relax and take breaks. That helps about Autogenic training or the Progressive muscle relaxation.

    The Swede Edmund Jacobson developed the second method. The aim is to specifically tense individual muscle groups one after the other in order to then abruptly loosen them again. In this way, the body can be completely relaxed within a few minutes. However, it does take some practice.

    Here's how it works: Start with your feet. First, clench your toes with all your strength for about four seconds, then suddenly release the pressure. While you are taking a short break, try to feel the warmth rise into the tips of your feet. Then move up from the heel bit by bit, muscle group by muscle group. Most of them are already relaxed before they reach the poor.

  4. Sleep better.

    For permanent memorization, healthy sleep - it lasts an average of seven hours - is at least as important.

    The head learns shortly after falling asleep: after around 15 minutes we fall into delta sleep. The brain pushes the experiences and information learned during the day from the intermediate storage (hippocampus) into the long-term storage (neocortex). It disposes of the information waste to make space for new information and at the same time forms the so-called declarative memory: We memorize facts, vocabulary, stories.

    Therefore, for example, anyone who has to give a lecture the next day should read through the speech manuscript again before going to bed. Within 90 minutes each delta sleep alternates with REM sleep (= Rapid Eye Movement) - the phase in which the eyes move quickly under the closed lids. In this dream phase, in turn, we mainly store procedural skills, i.e. playing football, cycling, painting.

    The REM phases dominate in the morning, so someone who is learning a sport or an instrument should sleep in if possible. There is even an interesting experiment: The Lübeck sleep researcher Jan Born had about two test groups convert several columns of numbers. What he did not reveal: For the second half of the tasks, you only had to enter the mirror image of the first results in the solution fields. Some saw the trick. Others went to sleep. Shortly afterwards, the likelihood that they saw through the shoot rose dramatically - from 23 to 59 percent!

  5. Breathe.

    What also relaxes: Sit or stand up straight with your shoulders straight. Now try only to breathe through your nose into your stomach - without lifting your chest. Breathe the 4-6-8 method: breathe in slowly and deeply, count to four, hold your breath, count to six, exhale slowly through your mouth and count to eight. Repeat the whole thing at least five times. With the exercise you can breathe away stress as well as learning blocks.

  6. Make a note of a story about it.

    This works afterwards like the proverbial donkey bridge. There are two methods for these stories:

    The first one looks a bit weaker, but it is a real story. Your friend will then tell you, for example, how difficult it was to get the number sequence 290968, which was important to him, because that is his date of birth.

    The second variant is a classic memo technique: To do this, divide the sequence of digits into sections for which you memorize terms that are very present. You could memorize the number 3210072412 something like this: "3-2-1 Meins" is the Ebay slogan, 007 the code from James Bond, 2412 the Christmas date. Instead of 3210072412, just remember: "Ebay, Bond, X-Mas". Or an absurd story about it: "James Bond buys presents for Christmas on Ebay." In general, the more absurd the story, the better the memory effect.

  7. Link it.

    Another technique for keeping new is to merge it with knowledge you already have. This can be an anecdote that you associate with it, a place or comparable chains of effects that you have already learned. The trick is to recognize patterns in them and to memorize them as a reminder.

  8. Divide it up.

    Complex relationships in particular sometimes just don't want to get into your head. In this case, sharing helps: Separate the complex information into digestible bites and practice memorizing these fractions that are linked to one another, as logically as possible.

  9. Provide fresh air.

    Seriously, without oxygen, your gray matter is in a fix. If you want to cram something, you need a lot of oxygen. So why not go for a walk through the speech manuscript or learn the vocabulary in the park?

    If that doesn't work because it's raining or snowing outside, at least open the window and ensure that there is sufficient air circulation. Every now and then you should also get up, breathe deeply and move around, this also stimulates the metabolism and blood circulation.

  10. Read it out loud.

    For shorter texts, such as poems or 10-minute presentations, there is another technique: Read the manuscript aloud, sentence by sentence. First the first sentence, then close your eyes and repeat it by heart. Then read the second sentence out loud, close your eyes again, but this time recite the first and second sentences. Then the third sentence and so on.

    That may be idle, but it really helps - at least unless you are planning to memorize more than 1,000 words.

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January 28, 2021Author: Jochen Mai

Jochen Mai is the founder and editor-in-chief of the career bible. The author of several books lectures at the TH Köln and is a sought-after keynote speaker, coach and consultant.

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