The Ebbinghaus Forgetting curve and how to challenge it?

After a long day of school/college, you return home and take a break from your studies. You listen to your favorite music, eat some snacks, and scroll on your phone for some time. Now, it’s time to get back to self-study. You feel you have understood all of the classes today until you realize that you don’t even remember half of the things you read. Yes, I can understand your pain because even I and many others have gone through this.

The secret of the people who are above average is not that they are god gifted with intelligence, but it’s because of their retaining capacity. Studying for a long time is useless if you don’t remember what you’ve just studied. There’s no use in filling a leaky bucket. But why does that happen? Why is it that we forget things quickly? Is there a reason behind it? Come on! Let’s find out in this article, what in the world is this Ebbinghaus forgetting curve?


Hermann Ebbinghaus was a German Psychologist who discovered the forgetting curve. In 1885, Ebbinghaus was pioneering an experimental study on memory. His rigorous research method needed only one subject-himself.

(pic credit: famous psychologists. org)

Hermann started testing his memory and plotting the results on a graph. His findings showed just how rapidly the information in our brain seeps out within a month. Hermann had forgotten 90% of his learnings. His findings have been since then backed up by neuroscientists. Our brains operate on a strict use-it or lose-it policy when it comes to info stored in it.

Let’s try to understand the actual curve.

According to Ebbinghaus, as time progresses forward, if you are learning new information without reinforcement of that information learned, there is this inverted exponential curve that occurs which goes from a high point to a low point. Basically, we forget the newly learned info when we don’t reuse or revise the information.

The above graph shows you the rate at which information is retained in our brain Vs time. It is seen that if we take initial retention( at time of learning) as 100% then at the end of 24 hours we remember only 70% of it. On day 2, we remember only 30% of it. At the end of day 3, we remember less than 20%. At the end of day 6, we are practically at 0%. So that’s not really pointing too well for us when it comes to memory, is it?

The rate at which a person forgets really tends to depend on several factors:

  1. Your Memory strength

2. How meaningful the content it is to

3. Physiological factors such as stress. The higher the stress levels are you are less likely to remember the information. If people have test anxiety this is what happens- a lot of times it’s not that they don’t know the information, but their stress levels are high and it’s as if they can’t remember it. It’s like a mental block.


We forget things because there is no need to maintain all the information in our brains. Our short-term memory cannot store a lot of information, it can hardly remember 7 items of a list for 20–30 seconds. So whatever information our brain perceives as less important is eradicated from its system, saving it from getting overloaded. And the information that is very important to us is transferred to the long-term memory which has unlimited capacity in it and can store info a long period of time.

(pic credit: article


It’s very important to forget information otherwise we might get confused about all the information stored in our brain. Also, just imagine that you are capable of remembering all the memories from your birth till now, our brain will get highly saturated and may come to a point where it can no longer store information!

It is also important to forget some bad memories which may have been created during the journey so that they don’t pull down our much-needed happiness and peace from us.


The important thing about the forgetting curve and how we can take advantage of it is that every time we interrupt the curve, it then takes longer for us to forget something.

So in order to remember the information, we must revise the content again and again, while previously you might have forgotten about half of it by the next day, now you are going to forget only 25% of it. And if you review it again 3 days later, you would have remembered about 90% of it. If you review it again after a month you will remember 100% of it!

Now, it’s gonna take you even longer to forget, and the more times we do this the more spaced out our repetition becomes and the more likely we are to encode the information into our long-term memory. This is called the spaced repetition method.

That’s how our brain works. Until and unless you tell the brain that this particular information is important by revising it, again and again, it won’t store the information.

Now it’s a matter of fact that a lot of us are already doing this. We know that we won’t remember that lesson for long so we keep revising it until we are confident with it. But we don’t schedule revision sessions more often as we lack time.

One thing to take home about spaced repetition is that it allows you to forget information. It is scientifically proven that the harder it is for us to learn the information, the more we retrieve it in our brains.


It’s absolutely normal to forget things like the name of the person you just met or where you left your phones…..and of course, everyone has forgotten an answer on a test. It’s typical for us to forget things as we grow older. But, if you find yourself forgetting things every now and then, you should follow these tips to maintain a healthy brain and retrieve the memories:

  1. Stay physically active. Go for a quick workout session or a long run.
  2. Eat memory boosting foods such as nuts, greens, berries, fish, etc.
  3. Give your mind some exercise by playing mind games, puzzles, crosswords, etc.

Tell me ways in which you combat memory loss in the comments section !

Thank you for reading !

Originally published at on February 1, 2022.



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