How Long Does It Really Take to Lose a Skill?


Ride a Bike Ever wonder why you have no problem riding a bike even though you haven’t hopped on a two-wheeler since you were a teen, but you can’t remember high school math for the life of you? The publication Hopes&Fears spoke with professors, data scientists, and even a Buddhist dharma teacher to get their take on why we lose certain skills but not others. Here are our favorite tidbits (though it’s totally worth checking out the full story):

“The length of time it takes to lose a skill is proportional to the time it took you to learn the skill. We see this in our lives all the times with the example of riding a bike or playing a musical instrument that we practiced for hours in our childhood. We don’t really lose these skills, although like our old bikes they ‘rust’ a little.” — Timothy A. Pychyl, Ph.D., psychology professor, Carleton University

“That really depends on the type of skill we’re talking about. There are specific skills like riding a bicycle or unicycle, juggling, and swimming where you fail miserably at every attempt, and then suddenly… voilà, you can perform the task perfectly. There’s no real in-between ‘I’m getting a little better’ process. These skills tend to stay with you longer. Skills that you can incrementally get better at te…

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