Mini Book Review: Über das Gedächtnis

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Über das Gedächtnis (English title: Memory: A Contribution to Experimental Psychology) by Hermann Ebbinghaus

Why would you want to read a book about the human memory that was published in 1885? As it turns out, Hermann Ebbinghaus' research has since been pretty much confirmed by modern-day researchers. Since I've seen his findings being quoted in other books, I wanted to go back to the source to check.

Ebbinghaus has been critiziced for doing research with only one subject - himself. However, he's the first to admit the shortcomings of his methods and he discusses them in detail in this book. He also goes to great lengths to describe his methods and discuss his results. It doesn't make for the most exciting read, but shows his dedication and attention to detail.

I find it fascinating that he dedicated years of his life learning non-sensical three-letter words, just to try and find out how the human memory works. And the fact that his results hold up to this day proves that it was worth it.

The style is what you would expect from a book from this time, which makes it a bit hard to read in places. I didn't find anything too surprising, which only means that modern-day authors seem to have quoted him more or less correctly.

It's both fascinating and frustrating that more than 125 years later, learning is still ignoring his findings: You forget things you just learned again soon (within hours). To counter that, you need to repeat the content early. You can then space out further repetition over a longer time, whereas many repetitions within a short time won't help much. Dr. Medina was on to something when, in his book "Brain Rules" (and referring to Ebbinghaus), he suggested that schools should change their schedules and repeat the content they teach up to three times per day and then revisit it again after three days.

Well, if schools can't change, then at least we can change the way we learn (once we've left school). The research to back it up is here in this book.

(Photo of Hermann Ebbinghaus from Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

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Creative Commons Licence "Mini Book Review: Über das Gedächtnis" by Dirk Haun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.