(1850-1909) German experimental psychologist. Influenced by Gustav Fechner’s Elements of Psychophysics 1860, he applied quantitative principles to the study of higher mental processes, in particular to human memory.
Ebbinghaus invented nonsensical syllables, consonant-vowel-consonant letter groups that he believed (wrongly) had no meaning and would therefore all be equally difficult to memorize. Using himself as subject, he used this material to investigate learning and forgetting, publishing the results in his Memory 1885. It was the first research to attempt, experimentally, to isolate the principal factors that generate learning curves. Although of great influence, Ebbinghaus’s methods were later extensively criticized, notably by Frederic Charles Bartlett.