Evaluation on the Contributions of Hermann Ebbinghaus
PS210 History of Psychology
Hermann Ebbinghaus was the first psychologist to experiment with both memory and learning. Ebbinghaus was born in Germany in 1850 and received a degree in philosophy in 1873. Ebbinghaus used himself as a test subject and began experimenting with memory in the late 1870’s (Fuchs, 1997). This testing was in contrast to the ideas on Wilhelm Wundt who believed that memory experiments were not possible. In the beginning Ebbinghaus studied 2,300 one syllable words, often which had no meaning. Through this he began to develop theories involving memory lists as well as how memory was affected when outside variables were introduced. Since memory is influenced by many factors, including outside stimulus, word length and stability of the learner Ebbinghaus developed the savings method to decipher the number of times something had to be repeated in order for maximum retention. Through his work, Hermann Ebbinghaus developed the curve of forgetting showing the correlation between the number of words learned and the length of time needed to learn them. Through is initiative, psychologists since him have continued his research and work expanding the realms of experimental psychology.
While Hermann Ebbinghaus made many significant contributions to psychology, he had three groundbreaking developments that pushed psychology into a new realm. The first aspect that Ebbinghaus challenged was using a scientific approach in order to study memory. Using his belief that the higher cognitive processes could be scientifically studied, he developed methods of self-study using himself as both tester as well as tested. In order to test his own memory, he made up 2,300 fictitious words (Schultz). These words were composed of one syllable, a vowel, and followed by another syllable. These words were important because they were not real words therefore free...
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