Join Paul Nowak for an in-depth discussion in this video What is short-term memory?, part of Improving Your Memory.
- We know that our short-term memory is somewhat limited, but how limited is it? Think about this, if you were going to the grocery store, how many items would it take before you'd decide to make a list? Because if you were just going to get two items, like bread and milk, you'd probably remember it without a list. But there's a certain tipping point, maybe four or five, six or seven items, where you'd decide that you need to make a list so that you don't forget. Now before this course is over, in a future video I promise to go over a technique that will help you remember a 10-item list with no problem.
You might be a little skeptical, but this technique will help you memorize a list in order, and the technique can also be used in a variety of other situations, like remembering presentations or things that you've read. We'll get to that technique soon, but before we do, we need to have a firm understanding of all the memory principles involved. So what is that tipping point where we have to make a list? How limited is our short-term memory? This kind of question was the subject of a 1956 paper entitled, "The Magic Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two." The paper was written by George Miller, one of the founders of the cognitive psychology field.
This paper discovered an average limit of about seven for short-term memory capacity of humans. This is why it's difficult for most of us to remember without a list seven, eight, or nine grocery items. This is also part of the reason why phone numbers in the U.S. without an area code are seven digits long. This idea is sometimes referred to as "Miller's Law" or "Miller's Magic Number Seven." But the number seven is not a hard limit. Since 1956, we've learned so much more about the brain and our memory. It turns out there are ways to increase the short-term memory limit beyond seven.
So in this course, we'll focus on improving your short-term memory, and more importantly, how to turn short-term memories into long-term memories.
- Memory principles that work
- Taking notes
- Using songs and rhyming techniques to remember details
- Building a "memory palace"
- Remembering names and passwords
- Memorizing long texts and speeches