Re: Info Mapping : the "7 +/- 2" rule (#526050)

Subject: Re: Info Mapping : the "7 +/- 2" rule (#526050)
From: Bill Burns <wburns -at- MICRON -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 5 Sep 1996 07:54:00 MDT

Eric writes:

>I'm usually pretty good at following directions
>(after it didn't work the first time and I resorted
>to reading the manual), but can't imagine that it'd
>make a difference to me if there were 3 or 33 steps.
>I'd remember them one at a time anyway.

>Are there ANY studies that apply this theory to
>instructional text? I'd even be interested in
>anecdotal evidence -- how many of the people on TECHWR-L
>read all steps, remember them, then apply them?
>How many go one step at a time?

Wish I could help with the request for instructional theory. I do have
a few points to address concerning this 7 +/-2 limit--and this is not
from an IM perspective. This rule applies for information that has to
be internalized. If a user doesn't have to remember the operation (either
because he or she rarely performs the operation or because they are required
to use the manual as a checklist--which is what our technicians do), then
conformance to this rule is arbitrary.

Also, when I discussed this limit with Conrad Gottfredson (who advocates it
in his seminar), he indicated that it was less a matter of *numbering* 1-7
(or 1-9) than grouping the steps visually using this guideline. You can have
a 33-step procedure, but break it down into chunks of 5 to 9 steps separated
visually so the user can work on one chunk at a time. Once they've internalized
a chunk, it can be nested into other chunks.

For example, once a person has learned how to cut a paragraph from a document
and move it to another location in the same document, they can use the same steps
(already internalized) to tranfer a block to another document. Or consider the
phone number example that several people have used here. Once a series of numbers
have been broken down into chunked strings, they can be recalled as a single
unit--a prefix, an area code, etc. In fact, once internalized, the information
becomes a bit difficult to extract from the chunk (which is why we have to perform
task analysis for SMEs). I find it easier to recall an entire number or a prefix
than to recall the individual numbers in an area code and piece them together
each time.

Again, I'm not saying that IM views chunking this way (which I couldn't claim
anyway, since I haven't taken the IM seminars).

Bill Burns
Assembly Documentation Supervisor
wburns -at- micron -dot- com
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