In one of the most cited papers in Psychology, cognitive psychologist George Miller of Princeton found that the average human can hold about 7 pieces of info in their working memory at a time. He found this in a study were he presented subject with am array of stimuli. He taught the subject that each stimuli warranted a specific response before testing. Performance was found to be highly accurate until the 6th or 7th task.
How To Work With the Rule of 7 To Improve Memory
Findings from these studies gave birth the Miller’s Law by which the average human can hold around 7 memories in their head at a time. You can’t fight nature, but you can increase the amount of information that each of your 7 memory slots can contain. We do this by a technique called chunking.
The Magic of Chunking
Here’s a test. Look at this number for 5 seconds and memorize it completely:
You can’t do it unless you already know how to chunk. Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492, 1776 was the year of our nation’s independence, and it’s 2013 right now. See what I did there? By storing this information as chunks, I can easily remember this 12 digit sequence in a matter of seconds. Furthermore, I will remember it for quite some time. Chunking provides strong memories in the brain that you can count on. Expert memorization athletes can use this technique to recall strings of digits that are hundreds of numbers long. Joshua Foer documents and actually becomes a memorization expert in his interesting book Moonwalking with Einstein. While the connections might not always be as clear as they were in my example, with a little creativity, you can do it.
The Magic of Chunking
For example, there is a college athlete who happened to be of average memory capacity. By chunking numbers into noteable track times, for example 359 became 3:59, the first time that broke the 4 minute mile barrier, he was able to easily memorize 80 numbers at a time. Examples like this are everywhere. If you like guns, you will probably hold onto 357 as a chunk. Like alcohol? 151 is probably a rather embarrassing chunk for you.
That’s basically it. Just wanted to share the memorization increasing power of chunking with everyone. It can help you in everyday life to remember a locker combination, street address, phone number or anything else that life throws at you. Best part is: it’s fast, easy, and fun.
I learned this from The Memory Book. Check it out: