The Forgetting Curve in Scripture Study

Apr 03
Forgetting Curve

How good is your memory? Do you have the scriptures memorized with a full understanding of the meaning of every scripture? Of course we don’t. The human brain has a limited capacity for recalling information.

Student often cram before an exam (guilty), try to do their best, and then proceed to forget almost everything they studied in the prior 24 hours by not taking steps to remember it.

Memory varies according to many factors such as topical familiarity, focus, alertness and energy level, interest in the topic, multi-sensory experiences, etc…

How many times have you come home from church or somewhere and heard something really interesting and couldn’t remember it an hour later, even though you really wanted to?

Thousands probably.

It seems like every day I experience memory failures 5 seconds after I think about something I need to do or want to remember. Distractions and other stimuli compete for our attention and memory.

We also have a serious amount of information overload. Dr. Martin Hilbert of the University of Southern California calculated that back in 1986 we received about 40 newspapers of information every day. By 2007 that had skyrocketed to 174. I don’t know the current figure, but we all know it’s so high we have become a world of “skimmers” instead of thinkers.

Spaced Repetition

When one really wants to remember what they’ve learned, studies show the very best technique is spaced repetition which is demonstrated on the graph below.

Forgetting Curve

As you start to forget, you review the material and your brain reconstructs all the elements associated with that memory. Then you space the next review out further and each time you remember it better.

While I wish I had time to do spaced repetition for everything I learn, there is another method that is faster and more accurate.

Writing Revelation

“The dullest pencil is better than the sharpest memory someone once wrote.

Applications such as Scripture Notes preserve our memories and associations with as much detail as we record.

Years ago I realized the most important thing about my scripture study wasn’t coloring my scriptures (though that certainly helps both with recall of colored patterns), but revelation that came to me about the things I was reading.

I needed a place to write them where they would always be preserved and accessible right next to the verse. I also didn’t want to access the notes for a single verse where I could only see the notes for that verse and then had to close it and open the note for the next verse.

Thus Scripture Notes was born to enable people to write down everything you want about a verse, and you get to mark up your scriptures too.

So, as I study, I write down all the insights coming to me, search the scriptures for additional references on phrases I ponder, and create collection notes to think about those searches more carefully.

I also jot down insights at church, things people say, and things I want to search, and then I come home and preserve those notes in my Scripture Notes file.

I also like listening to Come Follow Me podcasts and other gospel books and when I’m not at my computer, I’ll do a voice memo on my phone or send myself an email to remember to do it later.

Perfect Recall

Thus insights are preserved since I can’t rely on my brain’s memory to be perfectly accessible.

Now the next time I’m looking at a verse, I don’t have to recreate all the thinking I had the first 20 times I’ve read that verse. I look at my notes and take my new knowledge and life experiences since that point (which might be a long time ago) and see if I can add to it.

Often I can, so it’s a great blessing to have old notes instantly accessible next to that verse.

Whether or not you use Scripture Notes, you need to have some type of system for recording revelation. The advantage of Scripture Notes is that all your notes are always next to the relevant scripture verses, searchable, and ready for your next insight.

Verses and notes

(Notes blurred)




About the Author

Oak Norton - Just trying to share a love of the scriptures with others.