Re: Info Mapping : the "7 +/- 2" rule

Subject: Re: Info Mapping : the "7 +/- 2" rule
From: ArtElser -at- AOL -dot- COM
Date: Fri, 6 Sep 1996 10:48:56 -0400

On Thu, 5 Sep 1996, Eric Ray writes:


>As far as remembering steps -- realistically, how critical
>is it? I cannot remember (sorry) the last time that I
>read instructions, remembered them, then applied them.


I have to agree with Eric and want to add more. When Miller proposed "The
Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus 2" in Psychological Review in 1956, he
was addressing how the mind processes incoming linguistical information, not
how many steps in a process a person can remember.

If you apply Miller's ideas to a sentence, for example, you can see why a
long, convoluted sentence, full of unfamiliar information, can't be
understood on the first reading. The mind, like a computer buffer, fills and
overflows. We've all had instances of having to put one finger on the subject
in a sentence, another on the verb, and skip everything in between to get the
core meaning. And then we go back and process the rest to make sense. That is
Miller's theory in action.

Miller's rule of seven seems much overused. Yes, it's important to keep
procedures relatively short, and seven is a good aim point, but let's not use
Miller's rule in places it really doesn't belong.

Two good reasons for keeping procedures relatively short are: 1) to give the
doer a feeling of closure fairly frequently, and 2) to provide checkpoints
along the way so the doer knows what's been done so far is correct. Who wants
to find out on step 20 that step 3 was done wrong?

Art Elser
Comtech Services, Inc.
art -dot- elser -at- comtech-serv -dot- com

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