Friday, August 03, 2012

Number 7 plus or minus two

Cognitive Psycologist, George A. Miller (He and Jerome Bruner invented the field) passed away at age 92 on July 22 with his obituary in the New York Times on Wednesday. Dr. Miller was most widely known for an article he wrote exploring the number of things a person could cognitively manage at a time... Seven, give or take a couple. His article "The Magical Number Seven, plus or minus Two" is a classic. His work led to some fascinating research opportunities, and yet it seems that a man's time on earth will, despite the breadth of it, be reduced to nearly a sound bite, or perhaps less. For example, 7 plus or minus 2.

I learned of Miller's death from a cousin Michael, who in teaching young psychologists had used Miller's writing as evidence that material could be presented as both scientific and elegant in its prose.

Perhaps with just a bit more practice I could write like that.

In any case, and as some will know from experience, the ability to juggle and process notions is not unrelated to physical reality... The ever present cognitive dance between the concrete and abstract. My cousin Michael described Miller inspired testing of novice and master chess players to see how many chess piece positions could be remembered on a board. The chess grand masters could remember more than seven positions if it was a set-up from a real game, but only seven if the pieces were arranged at random. In other words, direct experience in real reality has direct cognitive effect.

One of the principles of Educational Sloyd was to move from the concrete to the abstract... A notion seemingly forgotten in American classrooms where too many things are presented in a fashion unrelated to real life. A well managed school wood shop correlated with other areas of school curricula can fix all that. Make, fix and create...

No comments:

Post a Comment