Tag Archives: academic performance

Why do we forget: Even if we study?

I pondered what to write my blog about, as I have always been fascinated about Psychology, even as a little girl.  Now what caught my eye was the section on Psychologist, Hermann Ebbinghaus, who was one of the first to study forgetting and wanted to determine how are memory is and the relation to forgetting what we try to learn.  Good question right?

I have often wondered why I study so hard at times and seem to really know the material, especially if it is of a subject or topic I really like or am interested in knowing more about, but then somehow either forget key facts or maybe even a huge chunk of the material I thought I had down pat; everything is blank and I am unable to recall the material I tried to learn.  What was the reason? Is there something that contributed to it that helped me forget more easily?

The article, “Forgetting”, in Very Well, speaks of Ebbinghaus and his published findings in “Memory:  A Contribution to Experimental Psychology” in 1885.  His results were documented and was deemed the “Ebbinghaus forgetting curve”.  As he learned from testing his self for the experiment that “information is often lost very quickly after learned”.


Cues can help you recall things from memory.  A good example, my Art History professor told us on taking notes in class to retain memory, was to do a quick and simple sketch of an art work, with lil key notes on important facets of it.  It will job your memory, or a key word.  Being able to recall things from a vast of newly learned materials can be difficult, and definitely can be forgotten quickly.

The article continues to mention on reasons on why we forget.  Distractions, something that has definitely impeded my retaining material from time-to-time.  Another thing it mentioned that correlates with Ebbinghaus’s Forgetting Curve, is “The Interference Theory of Forgetting”  It lists an example if you were asked what you ate for dinner last Tuesday, but you might not recall or have difficulty, but would probably more easily remember if it were more immediate, like the next morning.  As more time elapses, it is harder to recall from memory.  Similar things to remember are what it means by the “Interference Theory”.  Unique things are more likely to be remembered even with a lapse of time.

It is difficult to know what exactly creates the cause between memory and forgetting; it could be a multitude of reasons from interference, to new information, to time delays, so knowing what the main contributing factors are would not be easy to test or determine.

Definitely, as Ebbinghaus briefly indicated from his own tests, that when learning new material, or studying and then going to sleep, there was no drop in forgetting, as shown in the “Studying before Sleep” article, by Dr. Russ Dewey, 2007.  I would definitely have to agree with this, even if Ebbinghaus “reject some of his own data”.  By studying and then directly going to sleep, unless you suffer from insomnia, anxiety or other factors, you have no other interference with your memory.  You are asleep.  It is able to be restored right after the learning took place.


I personally have tried many ways, gaps before going to sleep, time in between, repetitive, but what seems to enable me to retain more and fully, is studying and then immediately going to sleep.  I never really looked at the other things that contributed to the “Why” we forget part before, but definitely delays and lapses of time in between learning and other interference or distractions cause forgetting and/or inability to recall or store the material or retain it properly.

With that being said, I know what I will be doing before the next quiz, going straight to bed after I study! 🙂


Works Cited:

https://www.verywell.com/lesson-six-human-memory-2795294, “Forgetting”, 2016, About, Inc.

http://www.psywww.com/intropsych/ch06_memory/studying_before_sleep.html, Studying Before Sleep, 2007, Dr. Russ Dewey,


High Schools Considering Later Start Times

I recently read an article in our local newspaper about the consideration of later start times for our high schools due to sleep deprivation and the negative effects it causes adolescent students (Devlin, 2016). Specifically, this would mean starting high school no earlier than 8:30 a.m., which is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics (CDC, 2016). According to the CDC, the average adolescent is currently getting eight hours of sleep, which is one hour less than the recommended amount. Various scholars have performed studies on later start times, and Minnesota was one of the first states to incorporate this into several of their middle and high school programs. The data and perceptions of later start times do seem encouraging, but are not without a few problems.
Sleep deprivation during adolescence has a number of negative conseqsleeping-kiduences such as decreases in cognitive abilities, positive behaviors, and academic performance. Inattention and poor classroom performance are just two of the cognitive and emotional symptoms resulting from lack of sleep. During high school, I was constantly tired and had problems concentrating on what was being taught. Occasionally, when completing my homework, I could not remember what was taught in the classroom earlier that day. Ultimately, my grades dropped and I struggled to keep them up. Emotional changes are another important symptom of sleep deprivation. Dahl (1996, 1999) suggested inadequate sleep results in irritability and less tolerance for situations that create negative emotions. This was very self-evident to me during adolescence. I was easily upset by insignificant events. I assumed it was due to hormonal changes, based on my parents’ opinion, but reflecting back, I’m sure it could have been a combination of sleep deprivation and hormones. A third symptom of lack of sleep is behavioral disorders such as ADD and ADHD. The behaviors exhibited by those diagnosed with ADHD are similar to those who suffer from sleep deprivation. Daytime behavior was often improved when ADHD patients were treated with sleep disorder medications (Dahl, 1996). Personally, although I was never diagnosed with any type of behavioral problem, I did exhibit several behaviors that could have been indicative of ADHD such as disorganization, lack of focus, forgetfulness, and being easily distracted. I can easily understand how a significant number of children can be misdiagnosed with ADHD.

In reading, “Impact of sleep on learning and behavior in adolescents,” Matekika, Millrood, & Mitru (2002) suggested later start times for schools, ultimately allowing students to go to sleep later at night and sleep longer in the morning. Several local Minnesota high schools and middle schools incorporated these changes. The later start time for the students resulted in a decrease in average sick days and tardiness/lateness, and increased alertness and grades (Wahlstrom, Wrobel, & Kubow, 1998). Additionally, 57% of the teachers perceived students’ improved alertness during the first two classes, and 33% of the teachers perceived an improvement in student behavior (Wahlstrom et al., 1998).

Since the research suggests students need more quantity and quality of sleep, the later start time for schools seems appropriate. However, the drawbacks of incorporating this type of scenario may prove that this is a difficult task, as demonstrated in the Minneapolis school system when students and teachers missed classes due to extracurricular activities. This type of disruption also caused diminished relations between parents and teachers (Kubow et al., 1999).
In reviewing the data supporting increased sleep time during the adolescent stage, I believe education would be the best indicator of success. Parental control should still be enforced without the disruption of adolescent autonomy. Parents, allowing for adolescent input, should continue to enforce a bedtime, put limits on stimulating activities toward bedtime (i.e. computers, phones, television), and supply a relaxing environment for sleep. Parents and children should be educated about the benefits of proper sleeping patterns and the symptoms of sleep deprivation. This information, coupled with later school start times, could have the potential to create a positive, lasting impact on adolescent behavior, cognition, emotion, and academic performance. I would have to say I was a bit reluctant to even consider later start times. However, the data suggests I may have to reevaluate my views on this matter.



Devlin, E. (2016). Unionville among school districts considering later start times. Southern Chester County Weeklies. September 4, 2016. http://www.southernchestercountyweeklies.com/general-news/20160704/unionville-among-school-districts-considering-later-start-times
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. August 6, 2015. http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2015/p0806-school-sleep.html
Dahl, R.E. (1996). The regulation of sleep and arousal: Development and psychopathology. Development and Psychopathology. 8, 3-27.
Dahl, R.E. (1999). Consequences of insufficient sleep for adolescents. Links between sleep and emotional regulation. Phi Delta Kappan, 80, 354-359.
Kubow, P.K., Wahlstrom, K.L., & Bemis, A.E. (1999). Starting time and school life. Reflections from educators and students. Phi Delta Kappan, 80, 366-371.
Mateika, J.H., Millrood, D., & Mitru, G (2002). Impact of sleep on learning and behavior in adolescents. Teachers College Record. 104, 704-726.
Wahlstrom, K., Wrobel, G., & Kubow, P. (1998). Executive summary of findings from Minneapolis school district start time study. Retrieved September 7, 2016. http://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/handle/11299/3902/CAREI%20SST-1998ES.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y