Wow, How Fast We Forget!

If there was just one thing you need to know about your memory it’s the speed how you forget it. Can you imagine that you will forget 50% of what you have learned in a first hour and 80% percent within the first month?

The forgetting curve also shows how information is lost over a period when there is no attempt to retain it. It may be a key.

Based on my experience I’ve found that understanding the material and connection it to your routine tasks, making the shortcuts, repeating the key moments for some time, morning hours may positively impact on your ability to remember.

As I’ve mentioned earlier in my post 4 Reasons Why We Forget, the information we are trying to remember may not be even moved to long-term memory. It happens. Often.

Christopher Pappas in his post gives an excellent summary of the idea of “forgetting curve” by Hermann Ebbinghaus, a, born in 1850.

Ebbinghaus forgetting curve

See full infographics here.

According to Ebbinghaus’ research, there are a few key principles involved in the forgetting curve:

  • It is often easier for learners to memorize new information if it ties into real world situations. Information must be relevant and meaningful to them, or else they are likely to forget it more rapidly.
  • When there is more learning material involved, the amount of time it takes to absorb information significantly increases.
  • As a general rule, learners are able to relearn information more easily than learning the subject matter for the first time. In addition, each time information is relearned, the length of time it takes to forget the information goes up.
  • Learners are able to learn more effectively when information absorption is spread out over a longer period of time, as opposed to having to learn it all at once.
  • Learners start to forget information immediately after the learning experience. In fact, this is the time when forgetting occurs most rapidly. However, forgetting will slow down over the course of time.

Every time you repeat it your retention rate goes back to 100% since you just reviewed the information. And every time forgetting sets in the very same way as if you learned the item only once. As you can see in the image the forgetting curve becomes flatter and less steep with every additional review, provided the review is made at the correct time.

The speed of forgetting depends on a number of factors:

  • the difficulty of the learned material,
  • how meaningful it is,
  • its representation and
  • physiological factors such as stress and sleep.

Factors such as how the information was learned and how frequently it was rehearsed play a role in how quickly these memories are lost. For sure, forgetting rate may differ a little between individuals.

Multitasking can play a huge part in memory failure. Switching back and forth between tasks, whether it be by choice or because of interruptions, can severely impair our ability to focus. Although you might think switching between several tasks is more productive, the sad truth is that it forces your brain to ‘reset’ each time you switch tasks. That can actually increase the time needed to complete each task.

Use or loss. The more we use the brain, the better it works.

Question: what is your approach to store the information in a long-term memory?