Magic Numbers: 7 ± 2
(7 Plus or Minus 2)

Tony Nudd BA MSc

Magic Numbers: 7 ± 2

(7 Plus or Minus 2)

G. A. Miller1 suggested human short-term memory had a capacity of about "seven plus-or-minus two" chunks. When putting across your point of view you can sometimes give too much information for them process at one time. 1 G. A. Miller, "The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information" (1956) see Wikipedia - G A Miller

This overload of information may result in confusion and/or only remembering the last couple of points you gave.

For good communication it is important not to overload the audience with too much new information.

Learning about 7 ± 2 will help to focus on providing just about the right amount of information to your audience.

As we have already mentioned, a Chunk is a unit of information (e.g. word/phrase) which has (or represents) deeper meaning to the audience, and that the meaning is relative to the experiences and knowledge of the audience. This results in each individual audience member placing different meaning on the same chunk presented to them.

Miller is suggesting that the number of chunks a person can process and work with at any one time is between 5 and 9.

In the CHUNKMAPS Method we will use this as a general principle. That is to say, when creating a Journey of Persuasion it is recommend that the audience is not overwhelmed with new information, but that new information is limited to about 7 chunks, and the audience given time to process the new informaion from their short-term working memory to their long term storage memory where it is linked to their life time memories, experiences and knowledge.

By using the CHUNKMAPS Method the Journey of Persuasion is used to accelerate that processing of information from short-term memory into long-term storage memory, while also influencing how the new information is processed.

The use of Chunking UP, DOWN & ACROSS can influence the speed at which your new information (chunk) is processed by your audience, and how the Deeper Meaning behind the Chunk is understood/accepted.


Let say we use in our presentation (or dialogue) the following phrase (chunk):

"You cannot bring bananas into Australia"

This maybe hard for non-Australians to comprehend, how dangerous is a banana? However, what if we applied the CHUNKMAPS Method to create a "Journey of Persuasion" and used the following resulting phrase:

"Australia's fruit plantations, such as bananas, citrus, apples etc are free from many common biological diseases. Bringing fresh fruit into Australia from overseas increases the risk of introducing those plant diseases. Fresh bananas, for example, may carry the disease pseudomonas celebensis which can devastate banana trees. This is why fresh bananas are not allowed into Australia."

Now the audience would be able to process and understand why bananas are not allowed through Australian airports.

Of course, we do not want to give the audience too much new information to process at once, but we have now introduced the audience to new information and associated it with their own deeper understanding around fruit and plant disease.

The CHUNKMAPS Method will give you the skills to be able perform chunking effortlessly and with ease when talking, arguing, presenting, writing etc ensuring your audience is not only understanding "what you mean" but you are also influencing "how they are understanding" you, and enabling you to lead them to your point of view.

Next Article: Trans-Derivational Searching

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