The Learning Curve

Many of us are familiar with the Forgetting Curve of Hermann Ebbinghaus, which illustrates that unless learning is reinforced we quickly forget what we have learned:

Curve of Forgetting

But what about The Learning Curve? What does that look like?

The Learning Curve

This S-shaped curve occurs often enough, in so many domains, that is has its own name: It’s called an Ogive (pronounced with a soft g) curve.

This curve probably mirrors your own experience when you learn a new subject: It’s difficult at first, then your knowledge increases rapidly for some period of time and finally it plateaus; it becomes significantly more difficult to keep improving beyond a certain point.

People have similar experiences with exercise. Imagine that you take up running. At first it’s hard, but if you persevere your speed and endurance increase rapidly until eventually you plateau at some point and further improvement occurs at a slower rate.

Pay attention to the label on the X axis. As with physical exercise you need to keep at it. You need to keep studying and practicing; otherwise you will find yourself on Dr. Ebbinghaus’s rapid curve of forgetting.

As an aside, note that the vernacular use of the term “steep learning curve” is actually incorrect. People use the expression to mean that learning something takes a long time or is difficult to learn. But the opposite is actually true. If you are on a steep learning curve you are making rapid progress.

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