What is the Forgetting Curve? ​

The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve describes a curious thing that we think happens only with us. 

Have you ever taken a class and felt like you forgot most of what you learned the next day? It’s not just you. We will forget newly acquired information in a matter of days unless we intentionally do anything to keep it.

With the ever-increasing information overload, knowledge retention becomes more important, and the Forgetting Curve becomes a bigger obstacle. But you can beat it.  

What Is the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve?

The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve depicts the forgetting process graphically. The graph illustrates the decreasing rate at which information fades when there’s no attempt to recall it. In his book Memory, German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus (1850-1909) defined the Forgetting Curve in 1885.

Ebbinghaus was the first psychologist to study memory and learning in-depth. Ebbinghaus’ approach of experimentation consisted of a series of lengthy tests on himself. In an attempt to discover patterns of forgetting and memory retention, he recorded his findings numerically. Thus, he coined several three-letter phrases, which he labeled “nonsensical syllables.”

The psychologist then attempted to memorize word lists and determined how long he could retain them after various time intervals. Finally, he graphed his findings in what is now known as the Forgetting Curve.

What Is the Rate of Forgetting?

The Forgetting Curve, according to Ebbinghaus, is exponential. It begins abruptly, with the amount of retained knowledge plummeting after we receive new information. The majority of forgetting happens within the first hour after learning. Not only that – there’s more. We usually forget about 75% of what we’ve learned after a day or two.

In other words, we will remember only a few details the day after taking a course, but we will be able to recall them for several days. The introductory forgetting rate, according to Ebbinghaus, does not differ much between individuals. This rate, however, can be affected to some extent by factors such as:

  1. Prior understanding of the subject 
  2. The material’s complexity 
  3. The information’s usefulness 
  4. How the information is delivered 
  5. Individual capacity
  6. Physiological causes such as sleep deprivation and hunger
  7. Psychological issues such as stress
What is the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve

10 Ways to Challenge the Forgetting Curve

The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve depicts how quickly we forget information over time if we make no effort to remember it. This is an obvious challenge for learning and development professionals. But is it worth spending time and money on course development and training if students are unlikely to remember what they’ve learned?

To overcome this obstacle, you must first comprehend the most effective strategies available. Although various factors influence the rate of forgetting, the good news is that there are several techniques you can employ in your classes to help your students overcome the Forgetting Curve.

Make Learning Applicable 

They’re more likely to accept and remember training if they can see how to make their job easier or save them time. In addition, the more relevant the information is to daily tasks, the more valuable the learning experience becomes.

Make Learning Accessible

Making courses conveniently accessible for your learners is critical if you want your training content to stick. They should be able to complete training at any time of day, regardless of where they are.

This is where the use of mobile learning comes in. It is easier for your learners to learn and retain information if they can access their courses whenever and wherever they want. This way, they’ll have a much better chance of recalling and refreshing their knowledge.


Another way to use engagement to beat the Forgetting Curve is through gamification. It applies game mechanics to other activities, such as eLearning, and then uses them to motivate your learners to complete the required learning. It’s also more likely to retain knowledge because it’s interactive and keeps your learners engaged.

Keep Learning Engaging 

Not only will having engaging courses improve completion rates, but it will also help learners retain information. So, keep the Forgetting Curve in mind when creating course content. But how are you going to do it? We recommend that you make information more digestible from the start. 

When students read large amounts of text, their concentration naturally deteriorates, resulting in lower knowledge retention. So instead, keep your learners interested by incorporating videos, images, and webinars into your content. Even better, rather than being passive observers, encourage your students to participate in the course actively.

Spaced Learning 

There are two crucial elements to consider to comprehend what was fully absorbed. The first is time. The application of timely reinforcement is the other.

This is possible with spaced learning, one of the most effective methods for overcoming the learning curve. Learners can reshape the Curve of Forgetting by using spaced learning to manage information retention. In turn, organizations benefit from spaced learning because it promotes long-term skill retention and increased productivity.

Blended Bite-Sized Modules 

The learner also gets practice retrieving the information they’ve learned in various formats, such as solving problems, taking exams, and so on. Again, this helps to combat the Forgetting Curve by reinforcing content.

Your eLearning needs can be met with spaced learning using bite-sized learning modules. The spacing can occur within multiple as well as single course modules. Similarly, learners are more likely to absorb information if presented in bite-sized chunks and repeatedly demonstrated in different, creative ways, such as in blended learning.

Make Learning Relevant

Did you know our brain is selective and has a finite amount of processing power? That is true; the brain can be picky when deciding whether or not to save certain pieces of information permanently. This unconscious decision, in turn, hastens the forgetting process. As a result, you should make training as relevant to the learner as possible when planning it. The more relevant the activity is, the easier it will be to absorb and remember what they need to know.

Support Knowledge Sharing 

Your organization actively supports knowledge sharing through training days, workshops, or a thorough onboarding process. When your learners understand that frequent learning and reiteration are part of your company’s daily routine, they’ll be more likely to participate in training and retain critical information.

Open Learning Environment 

It is not difficult to create an open learning environment. If your company holds mandatory isolated training events now and then, your employees will likely forget what they’ve learned. You can help reinforce learning and increase the amount of knowledge retained by holding frequent training events. Encourage students to provide feedback after completing a course and use this data to improve your content and foster a positive learning environment. 

Create A Learning Culture

With the help of a learning culture created within your company, learners are more likely to prioritize training and retain relevant knowledge. Learning is always happening, whether formal education is delivered through an LMS or informal learning through knowledge sharing at the water cooler.

In terms of practicality, you can encourage your students to embrace this learning culture by making it as enjoyable as possible. It happens by creating engaging course content with a great user experience and delivering it to your trainees via an easy-to-use LMS.

Beat the Curve of Forgetting with Right-Hand Cybersecurity

So, how do you put this into practice in your training programs? First, include examples or scenarios your learners encounter daily to make the course content relevant to their job function or role. Second, try to relate the training to information your learners already know if you want them to learn new information or gain advanced skills. Finally, if the training addresses a learner’s pain point, they understand how completing it will benefit them.

Our unique security awareness training programs ensure that our learning modules are personalized, relevant, engaging, and easily accessible for our learners. In addition, we help you create a corporate cybersecurity culture that enables you to support knowledge sharing and encourage open learning. So, what are you waiting for? 

It’s time to beat the Forgetting Curve and create personalized learning modules for your workforce that make cybersecurity knowledge memorable and valuable. Schedule a demo today!

Achieve unforgettable resilience with training that sticks. See how we can help you.