Tag Archives: philosophy

Profile of a Psychologis: Hermann Ebbinghaus

herrmannBorn in Bramen, Germany in 1850, Ebbinghaus was the first psychologist to study learning and memory by conducting experiments on himself. At age seventeen, he commenced his study of philosophy at Bonn University on the eve of the Franco-Prussian War. After completing his studies, he travelled to France and England, conducting research on the “power of memory.” In 1885, he published Memory “detailing the nonsense syllable” research. The nonsense syllable, logatome or pseudoword is a string of syllables that resembles a real word is in fact “nonsense.” In the psychology of learning nonsense syllables are used as a way to examine speech recognition. After becoming professor at Berlin University, he established two psychological laboratories there. Finally, he moved to Berslau University, founded another laboratory, teaching there until his death in 1909.

Inspired by philosophers by the likes of John Locke and David Hume, Ebbinghaus argued that “remembering involves association,” linking things or ideas by similarities such as “time, place, cause or effect.” The goal of his research was to test how association can improve memory. To verify the accuracy of his findings, he recorded the results mathematically to see if “memory follows verifiable patterns.” This would become known as the Forgetting Curve.

To start his memory experiments, Ebbinghaus began by memorising lists of words to test his recall abilities. He then created 2,3000 nonsense syllables, three letters each with the same pattern consonant-vowel-consonant, to prevent association. He then grouped these nonsense syllables into lists, looked over the list for a few seconds, waited fifteen seconds to then try a second time. He then repeated his process until he could correctly recite the series. Alternating the list lengths and learning intervals, Ebbinghaus also tested how these variables effected the speed of learning and forgetting.

herrmann1Ebbinghaus discovered that material  he found meaningful, such as a poem, was up to ten times more easily remembered than the nonsense syllables. He also found that more time he spent memorising the list, the easier it was and the less time it took to reproduce the list from memory. In addition, he found that the information remembered after the first repetitions, were the most effectively remembered after time had passed. Finally, Ebbinghaus also found that typically, a very rapid loss of recall occurs in the first hour, followed by lowered rate of recall loss. To clarify, after nine hours sixty percent is forgotten and after twenty four hours, two-thirds of recall is lost. Plotted on a mathematical graph, Ebbinghaus’s findings shows a clear “forgetting curve” starting with a “sharp drop, followed by a shallow slope.”

Ebbinghaus’ findings still remain the basis of the psychology of learning and memory.


Collin, Catherine. The Psychology Book. New York: DK Pub., 2012. Print.

Profile of a Psychologist: Carl Jung

JungBorn in a small village in Switzerland in 1875, Carl Gustav Jung grew up in a rather eccentric family. He became an excellent linguist at an early age and in 1903 married Emma Rausenbach, an intelligent young woman from a wealthy Swiss-German family. Emma later became a prominent psychoanalyst herself known as Emma Jung. Although originally educated as a psychiatrist, Jung’s meeting with Sigmund Freud in 1907, pushed him towards psychoanalysis setting him on the path towards becoming Freud’s protege. However, the pair became estranged as their theories diverged causing a permanent rift. Following World War I, Jung travelled across the globe studying native people, taking part in “anthropological and archaeological expeditions.” In 1935, Jung became professor at the University of Zurich before deciding to concentrate strictly on research.


Freud first introduced the idea that humans are guided by forces within ourselves, specifically our unconscious. He claimed that our experience of the world is directly affected by “primal drives contained in the unconscious.” Jung expanded on this basic philosophy inquiring into the basic elements that “make up the unconscious and its workings.” He was most intrigued by striking similarities between societies around the world despite completely differing cultures. In particular, the similarities found in myths and symbols ranging across cultures. Jung believed this could be explained by “something larger than the individual experience of man.”


To Jung it appeared that the existing commonality between these myths and symbols proved the existence of a “collective memory” passed down by generations as part of our heredity. He believed that this collective memory was housed in a part of the psyche and contained ideas “held in a timeless structure.” Finally, he proposed a notion that a distinct part of the unconscious is completely void of individual experiences, coining the term “collective unconscious.” Together with the ego, our conscious mind; the personal unconscious, our individual suppressed memories, the collective unconscious forms the three components of the psyche. We then inherit these collective memories found in the collective unconscious, allowing them to emerge within our own psyche creating symbols known as archetypes. Differing cultures, allow for layers and variations of these archetypes to exist simultaneously and just like with the evolution of all species on this planet, the layers of these archetypes reveal traces of the entire human experience.


Finally, our inherited archetypes, etched deep within our unconscious, serve as templates used by our psyche to “organise and understand our own experience.” Basically, archetypes serve as a guidebook programmed within our minds to help us make sense of the world as well as to survive it. Archetypes serve as the foundational structure on which our experience builds. They can be seen as emotions or behavioural patterns; regardless, they help us determine “a particular set of…expressions as a unified pattern that has meaning” seemingly instinctually.

Furthermore, Jung also is renowned in the world of psychology for his exploration of word association and his concepts of introversion and extroversion. His concepts inspired many well-known personality tests used today such as Myer-Briggs Type Indicator.

If you are interested in Jung you should consider checking out the movie A Dangerous Method. Also click here to see photos of my recent trip to the Jung Institute in Zurich.



Collin, Catherine. The Psychology Book. New York: DK Pub., 2012. Print.