Cognitive Daily have just concluded a series on three classic studies in early psychology: one on Ebbinghaus who experimented on his own memory, one on Millicent Washburn Shinn who experimented on her own
child niece, and another on the Gestalt psychologists whose elegant visual demonstrations have been used to experiment on the rest of us ever since.
Hermann Ebbinghaus achieved a remarkable feat. He published a series of experimental studies on memory, conducted on himself, in 1885, which are still taught today.
As described by the CogDaily article, he created nonsense words and learnt them, again and again, and then tested himself at later times and recorded how quickly he learnt and forgot.
Whenever we use the term ‘learning curve’ in everyday language we’re using a phrase created by Ebbinghaus to describe the rate of learning in his studies. He also mapped out the ‘forgetting curve’ and these two results largely hold true to this day.
Millicent Washburn Shinn was the first woman to gain a PhD at Berkley for which she studied the psychological development of her niece.
As CogDaily note, this involved a painstaking recording of her niece’s early experiences and new abilities and was a forerunner of more recent studies like the ‘human speechome‘ project and Fernyhough’s book on his daughter.
Finally, and with some wonderful visual demonstrations, CogDaily cover the work of the early Gestalt psychologists who fired one of the first broadsides in a key psychological debate over whether it is possible to understand the mind better by breaking it down into smaller and smaller functions.
Using a number of now famous visual examples they demonstrated that there must be some high level grouping processes that capture the ‘whole’ and process concepts on a more global level rather than purely drilling down through the detail.