Hermann Ebbinghaus

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Hermann Ebbinghaus was born in Barmen, Germany on January 24, 1850. Ebbinghaus' father was a rich merchant, and he encouraged Hermann to go to a University. At age 17, Ebbinghaus started his education at the University of Bonn studying history and philosophy, later he studied at the Universities of Berlin and Halle. He stopped his studies and served for the Prussian army in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. After the War he continued and finished his doctoral degree in Philosophy at the University of Bonn in 1873. For the next seven years following the war, he tutored and studied independently in Berlin, France, and England and became more interested in Psychology. “In pursuit of his ambition to apply the scientific method to the study of 'higher' cognitive processes, Ebbinghaus invented a new method for the study of memory.” (Tadeusz Zawidzki, 2005) In the late 1870s, Ebbinghaus became interested in the workings of human memory. As a young doctor of philosophy, he was determined to study higher mental processes and examine these processes that were neglected by William Wundt. Ebbinghaus was his own subject that he tested on. “He wanted to develop a means of visualizing learning, which involves memorizing and forgetting, and discover how it works within the human mind.” (Olivarez, 2010) The result of his experiments and research was Memory. Memory utilized the first use of nonsense syllables, which consisted of a consonant, a vowel, and another consonant, to discover the fundamental laws of learning. (Olivarez, 2010)

To began his testing he needed to find a way to study true learning. His problem was to find material to learn that had absolutely no meaning or relationship to anything he already knew. Using previously known words would have made use of previously existing knowledge and associations in his memory so therefore the nonsense syllables were meaningless, uninfluenced by previous learning. For his experiments, he decided to use himself as the test...
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