Re. 7 plus or minus 2

Subject: Re. 7 plus or minus 2
From: geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA
Date: Tue, 30 Jan 1996 07:06:34 -0600

Forwarded by request:

Miller's original research was not just on short-term
retention of phone numbers, but on short-term retention of
chunks of information in general. (The phone-number
example is most often cited, though it's culturally biased:
British phone numbers are eight digits!) The theory says
that you can remember about seven chunks of any sort of
information: hence, it is widely applicable, even to steps
in a process, bulleted items in a list, or topics in a
chapter. This phenomenon has indeed been observed outside
the domain of numbers; I suggest you look at any book by
Professor Ben Schneiderman for more examples.

I have taught classes on user-interface design, and my own
example is that the principal cast of a television show is
effectively limited to seven, because if it gets larger
than that viewers can't remember the eighth cast member,
who loses air time and eventually leaves, viz.: You can
name the seven castaways on "Gilligan's Island," but not
the dozen or so on "Hill Street Blues." Also, Denise
Crosby left the cast of "Star Trek: The Next Generation"
because she fell to eighth in the pecking order. (I feel
compelled to report that the principal instructor, who in
truth was far more qualified than I, went visibly nuts when
I brought this up, but it's my example and I'm sticking
with it 8^)

Please feel free to post this response to TECHWR-L. I
would do it myself, but I have had trouble posting directly
for some time now.

-- Steve

============================================================
==== Steven Jong, Documentation Specialist ("Typo? What
tpyo?") Lightbridge, Inc, 281 Winter St., Waltham, MA 02154
USA <jong -at- lightbridge -dot- com>, 617.672.4902 [voice],
617.890.2681 [FAX]


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