Miller’s Law - is There a Magical Number in UX Design?
How much information do you throw on the face of your users? Let’s start with a quick exercise. It won’t be wise of me to put some theoretical definition here in the very beginning. I want you to remember this law, and I want you to implement this the next time you are designing. Your task is to read the numbers from left to right and try to remember it. 7 8 9 6 5 1 2 6 6 5 Now close your eyes and try to recall this number. Can’t do it? Try doing it again by putting them into groups. 7896 — 512–665 Do you find it easy to remember them now? If no, stop reading this article right now! (I’m kidding 😅) (Source) But isn’t this how you memorize every other phone number? This process of breaking complex things into groups is called Chunking. And this is what Miller talked about way back in the previous century. Valid question! This question might pop in your head and you might want to go deep in detail. But what if I super simplify it for you? Here it is. Don’t get scared by these numbers 😆. 1, 2, 6, 6, 0 How many bits of information did you mind process? Yes! These are 5 bits of information. 5 different numbers=5 bits. You can also call them chunks. Now read the numbers below. (12), 6, 6, 0 Just because you grouped 1 and 2 together, it became 12 and now you have 4 chunks of information. How smartly you reduced the number of chunks! Isn’t it easy? So, by clustering and chunking, your brain finds it easier to remember and comprehend many complex things. Every research has a proper structure and methods in place which assists researchers to either validate their hypothesis or prove it wrong. For the sake of simplicity, I would just talk about the experiment in brief and not get into the complexity of it. (It’s not because I don’t trust you :D) Source — Just to scare you 😆 Researchers conducted 5 different sessions over the course of a year and every session had 5 trials. They would read one digit per minute to their subjects and subjects would have to repeat it in the reverse order. Researcher — (3,5,6,2,3,1) Subject — (1,3,2,6,5,3) If you folks want me to talk about the number of subjects, mean, standard deviation, significance, confidence interval, let me know in the comments. If you are interested I wouldn’t hesitate to go in detail. No details but here is the chart for that experiment. Adapted from: Miller, G. A. (1956) If you look closely at the average results, you would get a good idea of their memory power and how chunking capacity. It’s only fair of you to ask for Miller’s Law in brief now. We have gone through already gone through the basics and now it’s time for the short definition. George A. Miller first published this in 1956 in Psychological Review. The number of objects an average person can hold in working memory is about seven, » Read More
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