Off-topic: Magic Number 7 (WAS: Re: XML Editors - Word 2000??)

John E. Simpson simpson at
Fri Jul 2 15:27:03 BST 1999

At 01:50 PM 7/2/1999 +0100, Dan Brickley wrote:
>This has its roots in the paper "The Magical Number Seven, Plus or
>Minus Two: Some Limits on our Capacity for Processing Information"
>(1956), Psychological Review, by George Miller[1]. As it happens, Miller
>has also been instrumental in creating the rather useful WordNet, a
>freely available lexical database which I suspect might figure heavily
>at some point in subject classification of Web resources for the
>so-called Semantic Web. Therefore we're back on-topic again, phew.

Very deft <g>.

Thank you for the references!

At 01:53 PM 7/2/1999 +0100, Andy.Bradbury at wrote:
>Small correction - it was 7+/- 2 "bits" of information, according to an
>article by George A Miller in the Psychological Review, No. 63 (1956).
>The article was called:  "The magical number seven, plus or minus two: some
>limits on out capacity for processing information."
>Whether AT&T did the research John mentions I wouldn't know

Couldn't find any mention of AT&T or Bell Labs (or for that matter, any
occurrences of the string "phone" except in "phoneme") in the HTML version
of the paper that Dan pointed to. That I heard of this 7-more-or-less
theory as "belonging to" AT&T about 20 years after Miller's paper was
published possibly reflects the embrace-and-extend philosophy: "Not
invented here... but if it's useful, we can say it was!"

John E. Simpson          | It's no disgrace t'be poor, 
simpson at      | but it might as well be.
                         |            -- "Kin" Hubbard

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