Hermann Ebbinghaus: biography of this German psychologist and philosopher

Hermann Ebbinghaus is widely known in the world of psychology. This important psychologist and philosopher was one of the first to use scientific methodology in the study and analysis of higher cognitive abilities. Ebbinghaus made several contributions to the world of psychology, being particularly relevant for being a pioneer in the study of memory.

In this article we will see a brief biography of Hermann Ebbinghaus.

    Brief biography of Hermann Ebbinghaus

    Hermann Ebbinghaus was born on January 24, 1850 in the Prussian town of Barmen. Son of the wealthy merchant Carl Ebbinghaus and Julie Ebbinghaus, he was educated in a rich environment and in the Lutheran faith. What followed was one of the most remarkable research careers in the history of psychology.

    Early years: military training and service

    In 1867, a young Hermann Ebbinghaus began his university studies at the University of Bonn, taking an interest in history and philology. However, during his studies his interests ended up focusing on philosophy.

    In 1870, he had to leave them temporarily to serve in the army in the Franco-Prussian warAfter that he would resume his studies. He obtained his doctorate in philosophy in 1873, after having developed a thesis based on the philosophy of the unconscious (Hartmann’s philosophical approach).

    After earning his doctorate, Ebbinghaus would make trips to England and France, where he would continue to train and perform different experiments while working as a tutor. During this time, he became familiar with Fechner’s work based on psychophysics, believing that it was possible to study higher mental processes from a scientific and reliable point of view.

    Thus, he would begin to take an interest in what turned out to be one of Ebbinghaus’s most important and notable contributions to the field of psychology: his memory studies. In fact, he is considered the father of the scientific study of memory.

      Marriage, offspring and publication of “On Memory”

      To the staff, the Ebbinghaus from 1884 he would marry Adelheid Julia Amalia Görlitz. A year later, the son of the two was born, Julius Ebbinghaus, who over time became an important Neo-Kantian philosopher. That same year Ebbinghaus will publish in 1885 one of his most representative works, “Über das Gedächtnis” (“On memory”), in which he reflected his studies in the matter.

      Research on memory, vision and learning

      Memory was not the only aspect studied by Ebbinghaus. In 1890, he began to take an interest in and work on the sense of sight, more precisely the perception of color. Together with König, he founded the publication Zeitschrift für Psychologie und Physiologie der Sinnesorgane, focusing on sensory perception from a psychological and physiological point of view. In this aspect the study of optical illusions also stands out, Discover that the perception of the size of an object varies according to the size of those around it.

      Four years later he entered the fight for the leadership of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Berlin, which was awarded to the also well-known psychologist Carl Stumpf. After that, he would accept a position at the University of Wroclaw, where he would return to work again in the exploration of memory and learning.

      In the latter aspect, he would also focus to a large extent, aiming to investigate at the same time as generating to make practical use of his research in the field of education. He created the gap test, Based on the reading of sentences in which the subject had to fill in the gaps left by the evaluator (first the complete sentences were read and then the same but without certain words or groups of words). This test was designed to assess intelligence and memory in children.

      Ebbinghaus death and inheritance

      In 1905, he decided to leave the University of Wroclaw to settle in Halle, where he spent his last years. Ebbinghaus he died in this city on February 26, 1909 from pneumonia.

      Throughout his life he made several publications of great interest, and his research and methods are still used (although modified) to this day for various purposes. He is one of the first psychologists to use scientific methodology to analyze higher cognitive processes, being his vast heritage despite having no disciples or having created currents of thought.

      Study of memory and other scientific contributions

      These studies would begin from 1878, when Hermann Ebbinghaus would begin to conduct various experiments using himself as an experimental subject and applying a methodology based on psychophysics. It was common for him to use meaningless word lists or pseudo-wordsBecause they made it possible to measure memorization capacity more objectively by not being able to use elements such as sense to support and facilitate memory. He randomly generated the words, then memorized them and tried to reproduce them orally.

      Shortly after, in 1880, he was appointed assistant professor (a kind of associate professor) at Friedrich-Wilhelm University in Berlin. The results of the various experiments on memory and their subsequent analysis would lead him to develop concepts as important and influential as the oblivion curve and that of learning or the role of review of learning material in maintaining content in memory.

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