RE: Features of a well-written procedure

Subject: RE: Features of a well-written procedure
From: jgarison -at- ide -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 18 Dec 2000 17:10:58 -0500

There have been several references to the Rule of Seven. Here are a couple
of links you might find interesting: - which includes

The Magic Number 7

Four decades ago, G. Miller [9] offered a general rule of thumb that the
span of immediate memory is about 7 +/- 2 items. When people are asked to
distinguish between different tones, if the number of tones presented is
over about 5, their accuracy at this task decreases rapidly. When asked to
recall a series of unrelated words or numbers, people fail when the size of
the series increases to 6 or 7. In other words, the span of immediate memory
imposes severe limitations on the number of items we are able to receive,
process and remember. Although there has been much controversy over the
"magic number 7", as it is often referred to, G. Miller recognized that by
organizing items into categorical units or chunks, we can at least stretch
an apparent short-term memory bottleneck.

A commonality with the D. Miller, Kiger, and Jacko & Salvendy papers is that
the breadth of the structures with superior performance falls in the range
of 7 +/- 2. Kiger [6] says, "...the data seem to indicate both preference
and performance advantage for broad, shallow trees. Interestingly, the tree
structure resulting in best user performance used a menu breadth that falls
within G.A. Miller's [9] 'seven plus or minus two' estimation of short-term
memory capacity... As a general principle, the depth of a tree structure
should be minimized by providing broad menus of up to eight or nine items
each." In essence, G. Miller's findings that people are only able to make
quick, accurate decisions with a small handful of objects at a time has had
wide support across studies, and may provide useful guidance in the design
of web hyperlinks across pages. - a link to the original paper
by George A Miller written in 1956


John Garison
Documentation Manager
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Concord, MA 01742

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Fax: 978-318-9376

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