The power of four

Neuroscience has something useful to add to this conversation. The starting point for it was a 1956 paper by George A. Miller whose title tells you exactly what its conclusion was: “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information.”

Science has whittled that number down over time, so now it’s generally assumed that four is actually the ideal number at which we can chunk information. In some ways, it’s as if our unconscious brain counts like this: one, two, three, four… lots. That probably explains why we can remember the names of people in four-person bands, but not of those in bands of five or more.

The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier

I went looking for a source and found this paper which talks about how and why “3-5 chunks” seems to be the magic zone for most adults.

As someone who likes making lists as a way of explaining things, this is critical information. Also interesting: “3-5” is sometimes thrown around as the ideal team size.

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