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Herman Ebbinghaus Essay Research Paper During the

Herman Ebbinghaus Essay, Research Paper

During the late 1800’s a new science was emerging in Europe. Psychology’s roots

can be traced back to Germany and a man by the name of William Wunt. Following

Wunt other psychologists began emerging in different fields. Of these pioneers

Herman Ebbinghaus was one, and his field of study was memory. He performed the

first experiments in 1885 in Germany and the following is a background on the

man and his field. Herman Ebbinghaus was born in 1850 in Germany and died there

in 1909. He received his formal education at the Universities of Bonn, Halle,

and Berlin (Gale, 1996). Ebbinghaus received degrees in philosophy and history

from these universities (Gale, 1996). Ebbinghaus went on to teach at the

Universities of Berlin, Poland, Breslaw and Halle (Gale, 1996). These

experiences combined with later experiences with memory combine to give

Ebbinghaus a curiosity about memory greater than most of his time. Memory can be

defined as your amount of learning or your stored information. The process of

storing and retreving information from the brain that is central to learning and

thinking (Microsoft Encarta, [MSE], 1997). According to Myers (1998) memory is

"any indication that learning has persisted over time". There are also

four types of memory classified: recollection, recall, recognition, and

relearning. Recollection is the reconstruction of facts based on clues that

serve as reminders; recall is the active remembering of something from the past

without help; recognition is the ability to identify previous stimuli as

familiar; relearning is material that seems to be easier to remember than others

as if it has been learned before (MSE, 1997). These four types of memory

together help all people to remember anything from the states’ capitals to your

best friends birthday party from second grade. Some researchers say that there

are specific sites dedicated to memory while others say that all the brain works

together (MSE, 1997). There are tests to determine memory in individuals that

Ebbinghaus Ebbinghaus 3 himself developed and will be discussed later. One test

that does involve memory in a way would be the IQ test developed to test

childrens level of intelligence which in turn depends on how much the child

remembers. Ebbinghaus served in the Franco-Prussian War then seven years after

that, decided to tutor in England, France and Berlin (Gale, 1996). It was during

this time that Ebbinghaus became interested in memory and began to wonder how

memory worked (Gale, 1996). In the journal of Physiological Psychology William

Wunt said that a test on memory could not be performed (Gale, 1996). After

reading this Ebbinghaus decided that he would try and test memory himself. Armed

with his curiosity and his knowledge of memory from tutoring Ebbinghaus began

the tests. He used the same mathematical treatment that Gustav Fechner used in

Elements of Psychophysics to try and test memory experimentally (Gale, 1996).

Ebbinghaus decided to be the subject and the experimenter in this test so he

made a list of nonsense syllables that he would memorize (Myers, 1998). He

crated 2,300 one syllable consonant-vowel-consonant combinations to make his

study easier (Gale, 1996). He made words such as taz, bok, lef so that he could

test the memorization rather than his previous knowledge of the words. He

divided the material into lists that he memorized in different conditions (Gale,

1996). He measured them at night, in the day, when he was tired, just gotten up,

etc. He recorded the average time it took him to memorize the lists perfectly

then altared the test (Gale 1996). According to Gale (1996) he made observations

about ther effects of such variables as speed, list length, and number of

repetitions. Ebbinghaus also wanted to test long term and short term memory

retention. He compared the time it took him to memorize any list once with the

ammount of time it took him to memorize the same list again (Gale, 1996). He

also measured immediate Ebbinghaus 4 memory showing that he remembered about six

to eight items off his list after one look (Gale, 1996). Ebbinghaus in testing

memory wanted to know how much he still knew from his lists later. According to

Myers (1998) he would test himself on the same material thirty minutes to thirty

days after his initial test. Using the mathematical methods mentioned earlier he

came up with a retention curve showing how much of the information he was able

to retrieve the next day. This figure can be seen on the attatched sheet, Figure

9.3. Ebbinghaus discovered that the longer he repeated the list on the first day

the more he remembered on the second day when he was trying to recall the

information (Myers, 1998). Here is where the principle "The amount

remembered depends on the time spent learning" stems from (Myers 1998).

Ebbinghaus didn’t always remember what he learned though. The amount he forgot

can be seen his forgetting curve (see attached sheet) Figure 9.13. Ebbinghaus

tested himself up to thirty days after the inital remembering and graphed what

he remembered then (Myers, 1998). The results show that as time increased

percentage remembered decreases (Myers, 1998). Ebbinghaus did distinguish that

nonsense information is more easily forgotten then everyday material. According

to Gale (1996) Ebinghaus tested himself on 420 lists of 16 syllables 340 times

each, making 14,280 trials. Ebbinghaus studied learning rates for meaningful and

meaningless material concluding that meaningful items such as sentences and

words could be learned much more efficiently than nonsense syllables (Gale,

1996). As a result of Ebbinghaus’ work more about memory is now known. It is

better to evenly space memorization rather than memorize it all at once (Gale,

1996). Despite Wunt’s disagreement many still use Ebbinghaus’ work on memory as

a model for research on human memory (Gale, 1996). Ebbinghaus also developed a

test for memory in 1894 while studying the mental capacities of children he

developed a sentence completion test that is still used today to measure

intelligence (Gale, 1996). This was the Ebbinghaus 5 first successful test of

mental ability (Gale, 1996). Ebbinghaus was the cofounder of the first German

psychology journal, the Journal of Psychology and Physiology of the Sense Organs

in 1890 and wrote two text books: The Principles of Psychology(1902) and A

Summary of Psychology (1908).

Beer, Colin G. (1993). "Psychology, Experimental". Encarta

Encyclopedia. 1998. Microsoft Corperation. (1993-1998). "Educational

Psychology". Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia Microsoft Corperation.

(1993-1998). "Memory and Mental Processes". Microsoft Encarta

Encyclopedia. Myers, David. (1998). Psychology. New York. Worth Publishers.