Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Think About Searching, #11

How much can you hold in your head at one time?  For decades, starting with the Bell System, researchers have found that the number 7 holds the answer.  Our minds are amazing tools, but they are not limitless.  As we have discussed below, there are some inherent pitfalls to how our minds work.  In addition, our capacity to pay attention and pull from memory different items seems to reach its limit at 7.  This is the reason that the Bell System researchers created phone numbers consist of 7 digits.  One trick that cognitive psychologists suggest, and I have found very useful, is to repeat a name, sentence, or number that you need to remember to yourself for at least 15 seconds.  If you repeat it over and over for just a short while, instead of just making a mental note to remember it, then your chance of retrieval later is much higher.  Another oft repeated tip is to associate the name or event with an image.  The funnier and more outrageous the picture, the better.  If you need to remember Neville's name, picture an anvil that replaces his head.  Anvil rhymes with Neville and you will remember it.

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