memory retention

The Decline of Memory Retention Over Time - The Forgetting Curve


Since we published this post in January of 2016, the Retrieve platform has transformed the way employers help improve the job specific knowledge retention issue that is prevalent in all industries. The solution is to provide access to expert knowledge on-demand in a searchable format. Sprinkle in some innovative communication functionality and you have a tool that makes a difference for all that have access.


Everyone has at some point or another experienced the frustration that comes with forgetting – whether it be a menial slip, like an item at the grocery store or something more significant, like what the boss said at that meeting.

“Many researchers think that memory has a limitless capacity. Everything is stored in there but, without rehearsal, memories become harder to access. This means it’s not the memory that’s ‘going-off,’ but the ability to retrieve it.” - Dr. Jeremy Dean

The Forgetting Curve

The theory of knowledge and retention over time, and the alarming rate with which people forget things is credited to Hermann Ebbinghaus who In 1885 developed a formula for forgetting and then conducted a study to prove his theory. He discovered an exponential nature of fogetting, with a shockingly rapid rate of memory decline occuring in just minutes after instruction. 


Ebbinghaus’ formula was based off of two fundamental concepts. The first is strength of memory, which is unique to everyone. The second, is the amount of time that has passed since learning. One key thing to note is his theory does not reflect everyone and their ability to retain information over time because some people have extremely good memories whereas others are constantly finding themselves forgetting. Despite there being a few flaws to the theory, Ebbinghaus was able to provide clarity in the somewhat foggy area of knowledge retention rates and his findings have been widely accepted as the general theory for how we learn and retain information.

Around 15 million people will leave a cup of tea or coffee to go cold today. Meanwhile 12 million will go to shops only to completely forget what they went there for.

As seen above, the forgetting curve is fairly steep. According to Ebbinghaus’ findings, after two days only 25% of information is retained. Which translates into a whole lot of wasted time, resources, and energy. Additionally there have been several other studies that have found the forgetting curve to be even steeper with 75% of information lost after just 24 hours and 90% of information lost after one week. Despite the severity of the curve, the good news is that there are strategies to combat it.

The Learning Curve

At Retrieve, we know and understand that people forget. It’s a part of life.   However, we embrace forgetfulness and our goal is to provide tools to drastically improve retention. Most importantly, we fill in the gaps of knowledge by creating a secure, easily accessible place to retrieve information. 

learning curve 

The best way to address sustainment of knowledge and realize the true value of training is to supplement current successful mechanisms with short, powerful video content on the go.

The Retrieve Solution

At Retrieve, our mission is to help companies improve performance and we do so by continuously engineering our technology platform with innovative video communications and mobile distribution methods. Because of our natural tendencies to quickly forget  information, our technology  is tailored toward that gap and allows users to access information at anytime and from anywhere via our mobile applications and the cloud.

Combat the Forgetting Curve with Just-In-Time Information

Maintaining a competitive business edge requires continuous, just-in-time communications. What you do following any type of training is more important than anything that you do prior. According to Learning Technologies Solutions, this “after” part can be defined as the sustain phase.

“This stage [sustain] needs integrated performance-support solutions that provide immediate access to cascading levels of support. These integrated solutions need to provide targeted access to updated knowledge and skill requirements at the moment of application. Core components include job-tailored, integrated performance-support solutions with full support.”

1. Targeted Access to Knowledge 

Operating within the cloud enables for real-time, always up-to-date knowledge at your fingertips. Just-in-time, tap-on-demand information is fully indexed and is made even more user friendly with a table of contents. Search for any keyword or phrase to find the information you need.

2. Instant Mobile Access 

Instant mobile access means access to information anytime, across a multitude of devices from anywhere, when you need it.

3. Fully Integrated Support System

Occasionally questions need more justification than instructional video can supply. In that case, video gives simplicity for users to capture their questions and speed for support personnel to resolve those issues. 

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