Savings method

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The savings method is a procedure developed by the German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus to measure memory performance. This method measures the number of learning cycles required to learn something again after a certain period of time. The material is considered learned if it can be reproduced without errors. The number of repetitions saved in the following attempt is also known as the "memory measure".


In order to better understand the processes of remembering, Ebbinghaus learned different long lists of meaningless or meaningless syllables. Such a syllable is a randomly generated sequence of two consonants and a vowel in between. Examples of such syllables are 'pöt', 'tuv' or 'zim'. A syllable with little meaning should be completely new and not evoke any association with a known term. This is important for the experiment because the impression is to be measured in its pure form. Understanding the sense of the text, remembering an experienced situation or other associations influence retention and would falsify the measurement.

He carried out many series of tests on his own, changing the length of the lists and the time between them until they were queried again.


For the savings method, Ebbinghaus memorized a certain number of lists with a given number of meaningless syllables with each attempt until he was able to reproduce them without errors. He counted the repetitions necessary for this. After fixed time intervals he asked himself what he had learned and again counted how often he had to relearn the material in order to be able to reproduce it. The time intervals were z. B. 5 minutes, 30 minutes, one hour, 24 hours, two days. Ebbinghaus calculated the difference between the necessary repetitions of the individual exercise units (e.g. number after 5 minutes minus number after 30 minutes) in order to determine the number of repetitions saved.

With the help of the savings method he determined the learning curve or the forgetting curve . The learning curve calculated using this method shows the decrease in the number of repetitions required (when practicing daily over several days). He plotted the number of repetitions and the savings over time. The forgetting curve shows its increase as the time intervals between the repetitions increase. Basically, he found that over time, both the pace of learning and forgetting decrease.


Ebbinghaus learns a list of 14 syllables and needs 20 repetitions for this first learning. After a break of 24 hours, he relearns the list until he has mastered it again perfectly. Usually he needs fewer repetitions the second time, for example 15. This saving is now calculated from the difference in the repetitions of both sets (20-15 = 5), divided by the initial repetitions (5/20 = 1/4 or 25%). This means that Ebbinghaus required 25% fewer repetitions in the second learning process, so to speak saved .

In this example, after learning 14 meaningless syllables, Ebbinghaus found a saving of 25% after 24 hours.

Individual evidence

  1. a b Editing School and Learning (ed.): Schülerduden Psychologie. 3. edit again. Edition. Bibliographisches Institut & FA Brockhaus, Mannheim 2002, ISBN 3-411-05253-8 , p. 101.
  2. Joachim Funke, Peter A. Frensch (Ed.): Handbuch der Psychologie. 1st edition. Hogrefe Verlag, Göttingen 2006, ISBN 3-8017-1846-8 , p. 205.
  3. a b c Wolfgang Schönpflug: History and systematics of psychology. 2. revised Edition. Beltz Verlag, Weinheim / Basel 2004, ISBN 3-621-27559-2 , pp. 301-302.