Hacking the Magical Number Seven With Storytelling

number7Our short-term memory is widely believed to have a capacity of seven elements, plus or minus two. This assumption has influenced a number of major decisions — it’s the reason that U.S. phone numbers have seven digits, for example. There are ways to trick your brain into being able to store more than seven (plus or minus two) items, however. One example of a hack around the limit is described in George Miller’s 1956 paper “The Magical Number Seven.
Most people can only reliably differentiate between six tones on an absolute basis (people with perfect pitch, or roughly 3 percent of the U.S. population, can do so among up to 50-60 pitches, according to Miller), so the rest of us use relative pitch to differentiate amongst a wider range of tones.
Another approach is to connect items through a story. Stories serve as one of mankind’s most efficient compression algorithms, allowing people to dramatically exceed the seven-item limit. If you want to show your boss how hard you’ve worked, pack your presentation with data, charts, and bullet points — but if you want to have an impact, tell a story. The same goes for building great products, effective advertising and selling yourself as a candidate for a job. Read More about Hacking the Magical Number Seven With Storytelling