The semi-magic number 7? Not for lists.

Subject: The semi-magic number 7? Not for lists.
From: Geoff Hart <Geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Wed, 5 May 1999 08:34:22 -0400

Dick Margulis wants a pointer to <<...the recent discussion
(or a reference of some sort) concerning the fallacy that one
must never ever have more than seven items in a list?>>

First off, don't worry about checking DejaNews, since we
have our own techwr-l archives:
http://www.raycomm.com/techwhirl/archives.htm

The bottom line is that Miller's research focused on short-term
memory (e.g., remembering phone numbers), not information
presented permanently on the printed page. Although Miller's
general observation is broadly applicable (i.e., shorter lists are
easier to handle than longer lists, all else being equal), his
specific observation is not broadly applicable, and certainly
not to lists. Moreover, even if it were, there would be
countless factors more important than the number of list
items: how well written or how complex each item is, whether
mnemonic aids were included with each item, whether the
reader's context is stressful or relaxed, and on and on.

I haven't provided the citation for Miller's article because it's
not light reading and I wouldn't lightly recommend it to
anyone else; I've managed to make it through once through
sheer cussedness, and one day I'm going to sit down and
write an English summary for my own use that I can
understand with less effort. It's not that he's writing about
anything really difficult to understand, just that he's writing it
so badly.


--Geoff Hart @8^{)} Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

"Patience comes to those who wait."--Anon.


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