Miller's Magic Number

Miller (1956): How many pieces of information can you remember? Miller's Magic Number, most likely.
Miller's Magic Number

How Much Can Humans Remember?

In 1956, Harvard University-based psychologist George A Miller published a paper in journal Psychology Review that would give a fascinating insight into human memory and have implications far beyond the field of psychological research and impact on our everyday lives in way many people don't realize.

Miller was troubled for several years by the invasion of numbers - or specifically, integers - in his life. He set about to research just how much we can remember in our short-term memory.

The widely-accepted multi-store model of memory acknowledges seperate stores of information in our memory that take the form of a short and long-term memory. As we remember with ease early childhood experiences, it's clear that the long term memory has a vast capacity that's difficult to measure in terms of capacity (how much can be stored) and duration, as it lasts a lifetime. The short-term memory on the other hand is more limited, and Miller investigated its capacity.


Memory "Chunking"

Miller found that the short-term memory of different people varies, but found a strong case for being able to measure short-term memory in terms of chunks. A chunk can be a digit in part of a telephone phone number (but not a telephone number in a list of telephone numbers), a name or some other single unit of information.

His research lead him to discover a Magic Number - Seven: most of the participants in his experiments were able to remember seven +- two chunks of information in their short term memory.


What are the implications of Miller's Magic Number?
In This Article:

Miller (1956): How many pieces of information can you remember? Miller's Magic Number, most likely.

  • How Much Can Humans Remember?
  • Memory "Chunking"
  • What are the implications of Miller's Magic Number?

This article is available to members


Existing User? Login





 More on Memory Psychology

Memory Like A Goldfish?

Test your short-term memory with this online feature.

Memory Test ›


Chew For Memory?

How research at two universities found memory recall can be improved by chewing...

"It Happened In A Flash"

Flashbulb memories explained. Includes characteristics of flashbulb memories,...

Why Do We Forget?

Why do we forget? Find out in this fascinating article.

Conditioned Behavior

What is conditioning? What Pavlov's dogs experiment teaches us about how we...

Levels Of Memory Processing: How Different Levels Of Remembering Determine Whether You Hold On To Information

Craik & Tulving wanted to test whether the level of processing affected how...


More on Memory Psychology  

Sign Up for Full Access

Join Psychologist World today for access to our entire 2,200+ collection of psychology theories, approaches, studies, experiments and online guides.

  • Psychology approaches, theories and studies explained
  • Body Language Reading Guide
  • How to Interpret Your Dreams Guide
  • Self Hypnosis Downloads
  • Plus More Member Benefits

Learn More and Sign Up ›


Psychologist World is an online magazine dedicated to psychology, providing theory and experiment overviews, popular psychology articles and practical psychology guides. For details of content available with membership click here.