In a new analysis, a psychiatrist has challenged the long-held view that the mind can cope with seven pieces of information before confusion sets in by suggesting that the magic number might actually by four.
In 1956, American psychologist George Miller had published a paper in the influential journal Psychological Review arguing that the mind could cope with a maximum of only seven chunks of information.
But UNSW professor of psychiatry Gordon Parker says a re-analysis of the experiments used by Miller shows he missed the correct number by a wide mark. Parker says a closer look at the evidence shows the human mind copes with a maximum of four ‘chunks’ of information, not seven.
“So to remember a seven numeral phone number, say 6458937, we need to break it into four chunks: 64. 58. 93. 7. Basically four is the limit to our perception,” Parker said.