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Magical No. 7

Read and Reflect

Chunking involves the process whereby we can increase our short-term memory processing capacity by combining smaller elements of information into larger pieces, or chunks.  The process was first described in The Magical Number Seven, by George Miller.

Read the paper, focusing on the sections relating to absolute judgement and immediate memory.

Now try to place the following ten words in the text below:

 

recoding        bits           limit             immediate memory           seven

absolute judgement (2)         chunks          information          organizing      



There is a clear and definite (1)_______________ to the accuracy with which we can identify absolutely the magnitude of a unidimensional stimulus variable. I would propose to call this limit the span of 2)_______________ , and I maintain that for unidimensional judgments this span is usually somewhere in the neighborhood of 3)_______________.

Absolute judgment is limited by the amount of information. Immediate memory is limited by the number of items. In order to capture this distinction in somewhat picturesque terms, I have fallen into the custom of distinguishing between 4)_______________ of information and 5)_______________ of information. Then I can say that the number of bits of information is constant for 6)_______________  and the number of chunks of information is constant for 7)_______________ .

We must recognize the importance of grouping or 8)_______________ the input sequence into units or chunks. Since the memory span is a fixed number of chunks, we can increase the number of bits of information that it contains simply by building larger and larger chunks, each chunk containing more 9)_______________ than before.

(10) ___________ is an extremely powerful weapon for increasing the amount of information that we can deal with. In one form or another we use recoding constantly in our daily behavior.

 

ANSWERS

  1. limit
  2. absolute
  3. seven
  4. bits
  5. chunks
  6. absolute
  7. immediate
  8. organising
  9. information
  10. recording

There is a clear and definite limit to the accuracy with which we can identify absolutely the magnitude of a unidimensional stimulus variable. I would propose to call this limit the span of absolute judgment, and I maintain that for unidimensional judgments this span is usually somewhere in the neighborhood of seven.

Absolute judgment is limited by the amount of information. Immediate memory is limited by the number of items. In order to capture this distinction in somewhat picturesque terms, I have fallen into the custom of distinguishing between bits of information and chunks of information. Then I can say that the number of bits of information is constant for absolute judgment and the number of chunks of information is constant for immediate memory.

We must recognize the importance of grouping or organizing the input sequence into units or chunks. Since the memory span is a fixed number of chunks, we can increase the number of bits of information that it contains simply by building larger and larger chunks, each chunk containing more information than before.

Recoding is an extremely powerful weapon for increasing the amount of information that we can deal with. In one form or another we use recoding constantly in our daily behavior.

 

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