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  • James Howey

The Forgetting Curve!

These days we are doing a lot of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) activities, including training. Training is a vital part of learning new skills (or getting refreshers).

I myself attended a training course earlier this year. I picked up on a very interesting (interesting to me at least) thing which the trainer mentioned, which was, to use or apply what you have learnt within a few days or you may forget it. He referred to the Forgetting Curve.

In the late 19th century, German psychologist, Hermann Ebbinghaus tested his memory over different periods of time. Once he’d gathered all the data from his spaced learning studies, he plotted it on a graph, see Figure 1.

Figure 1: The Forgetting Curve (reproduced from

Ebbinghaus actually discovered the nature of memory loss over time. The graph in Figure 1 illustrates that when you first learn something, the information disappears at an exponential rate (you lose most of it in the first couple of days!).

Ebbinghaus identified that the level of retention depends on a couple of things, one of them being time. The Forgetting Curve shows that learners will forget an average of 90% of what they have learned within the first month.

There are some useful things which can be undertaken to combat the Forgetting Curve, including:

  • reinforce the training regularly. There should be periodic refreshers (of course if you do what you have learned from the training day in and day out then you won’t forget it, but there may be some advancements which have happened in your field/area).

  • the training itself should be clear, relevant and interactive (check that this is the case as far as possible)

Also, have look at one of my earlier posts on operator (employee) training. You may have forgotten about this post! ☺

“The mind has a mind of its own.” [old saying]

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