Preparing for Instructions 4 – Cognitive Science of Learning

Mythical Retention Data & The Corrupted Cone

Wow!!! How often do you attend the training session in which the trainer bombards you with the information that you know is bogus? Not once, but twice, during the last Friday’s training session I found myself in a need to debunk the information the instructor was giving.

The first false information the instructor gave us was about the ‘workers right to refuse the unsafe work’ under section 3.12 of the Workers Compensation Act (can be found here if anyone has any interest in it) completely mixing it with the section 4.19 (can be found here) which prompted lots of discussion amongst the employees. This has almost nothing to do with today’s blog, but I wanted to give you some extra information for your future perusal (good to know when you work for any company).

It was the second information he delivered that resonated so wrongly in my mind. He stated bluntly, that:
a) If we only listen to him, we will remember only 10% of today’s lecture;
b) If we listen to him and have our books open, we will remember 20%;
c) If we listen to him, have the books open and take notes, we will remember 30%;
d) If we try it and talk about it while doing it, we will remember 90%.

When researching this issue I quickly interviewed a few people in my surroundings on what was their take on the above statements. Well, guess what? They disagreed, and offered numerous pointers to prove those statements wrong. My husband, for example, pointed right away that it really depends on how much he is interested in the topic being presented, how concentrated he is during the presentation, what was his previous experience and knowledge about the subject, as well as how interesting the presentation was and the mode of lecturing used. My friend, on the other hand, said that it is so untrue, as it depends on the person’s intelligence, interests, previous education and skill levels, the way it was presented etc.

It is not without a reason, that there is a saying that we are surrounded by the like-minded people!!!

Well, the author of the linked article also begs to differ with this myth, so often used by the instructors and motivational trainers. As a matter of fact, there are probably as many websites posted by the people who want to debunk this myth, as there are the websites that utilize it.

If you type “Dale’s Cone of Learning” or “Dale’s Cone of Experience” into a search section of our friendly search machines you will get tens of thousands of hits in mere 0.23 seconds. I selected two cones just for the sake of placing them one beside another.

Dales Cone of Experience   The Cone of Learning

The question is: When did the Dale’s Cone of Experience become the “Cone of Learning” attributed to Edgar Dale (1969)? The answer can be found in the linked article, which also provides further links if you wish to investigate this issue.
To conclude I will ask you the following question. Did you ever attend a meeting with your coworkers and tried to compare your notes afterward? I did. And I learned early enough that two, three, even four people take the topic of the conversation and important points differently from each other. Meriam and Bierma (2014) cited that the connection between the experience, memory and feelings determines how will the brain respond to all information it receives, pointing out that two people will remember the same situation or information differently depending on their previous experience (Meriam & Bierma, 2014 p. 169-173).

With that in mind, how much of the information you just read will you remember in two weeks?

Happy memories!!!


Merriam, S. B. & Bierema, L. L. (2014). Adult learning. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons

Thalheimer, W. (2015). Mythical Retention Data & The Corrupted Cone. Retrieved on: 04-March-2016. From:

WorkSafe BC (2016). The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Regulation. Retrieved on: 04-March-2016. From:

Google results on “Dale’s Cone of Experience” Retrieved on 05-March-2016. From:

Google results on “Dale’s Cone of Learning” Retrieved on 05-March-2016. From:

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