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Computing (FOLDOC) dictionary (also found in English - English (Wordnet), )
learning curve
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jargon A graph showing some measure of the cost of
performing some action against the number of times it has been
performed. The term probably entered engineering via the
aircraft industry in the 1930s, where it was used to describe
plots showing the cost of making some particular design of
aeroplane against the number of units made.
The term is also used in psychology to mean a graph showing
some measure of something learned against the number of
trials. The psychology graphs normally slope upward whereas
the manufacturing ones normally slope downward but they are
both usually steep to start with and then level out.
Marketroids often misuse the term to mean the amount of time
it takes to learn to use something ("reduce the learning
curve") or the ease of learning it ("easy learning curve").
The phrase "steep learning curve" is sometimes used
incorrectly to mean "hard to learn" whereas of course it
implies rapid learning.