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The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two

From: Harvey Bingham <hbingham@acm.org>
Date: Mon, 26 Jun 2000 12:21:29 -0400
Message-Id: <>
To: w3c-wai-er-ig@w3.org
The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on our Capacity 
for Processing Information[1]
George A. Miller (1956)
Harvard University
First published in Psychological Review, 63, 81-97.
reproduced with permission, by Stephen Malinowski:

The classic paper on chunking. I recommend it. I find particularly
interesting Miller's identification of how concurrent use of other
modalities can help.

Diane Wilson paraphrases that concept as

"People can remember seven plus or minus two items at a time"

This assumption is sometimes misunderstood. The key word here is remember. 
It applies to recall, not recognition.

People should have to recall only a limited amount of information. They can 
recognize a correct response from a much larger set of choices.

The need to remember, short-term, is certainly what we are addressing for
accessibility. Recognition, however tedious, can happen if targets are
adequately differentiated in their descriptions, even if in a longer

Regards/Harvey Bingham
Received on Monday, 26 June 2000 16:58:31 UTC

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