Re: Doogie Mice

Michael S. Lorrey (
Fri, 03 Sep 1999 12:25:10 -0400

Patrick Wilken wrote:
> Sorry to disappoint you, but you are actually very normal. The original
> 1956 paper by George Miller used a 7 item limit more for rhetorical device
> than because it was that close to actual limits in humans. Since then it
> appears that we have two limits: one associated with phonological
> short-term memory and another with visual short-term memory (VSTM).
> Phonological short-term memory appears to hold about 2 seconds of
> information so if you thinking in Welsh you can hold far fewer words than
> if you are thinking in Chinese. VSTM appears to hold around 4, but there is
> some variation. In experiments I have been doing for my dissertation I
> regularly find subjects that appear to have capacity limits up around 7-8
> and others down around 2-3. My own belief is that this is probably an
> attentional limit as well (there are various studies suggesting that we can
> only attend to about 4 items at a time). There is some disagreement as to
> where this limit might be many posit something akin to a high-level buffer
> than can only hold an absolute number of items (around 4-5).

Which is probably why I can do a large number of items, since taking speed reading training. Rather than focusing on a single digit at a time, treat the whole sequence of digits as one character or image. THis is why the dashes in a phone number are great, as you can treat each group of three or four digits as one item. Doing this, remembering a ten digit number from a single glance is easy. My only problem is remembering that that ten digit number is associated with a particular person... ;) I have to look up the area code and exchange of where they live, which usually allows me to recall the last four digits, so long as I haven't tried to store too many different numbers that are in that exchange... Once I've used that number for that person four or more times its pretty automatic...

Mike Lorrey