Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Data Chunks Easier to Remember

Many people say they aren't good at remembering long number sequences, but the very fact that we remember telephone numbers shows that humans can and do remember long strings of information, but there's a trick to it. We break up such information into smaller chunks.

Telephone numbers, for instance are broken up into sequences of 3 and 4 numbers. Not everyone knows their credit card numbers by heart, but these 16-digit strings are made easier to memorize by being set out in groups of four.

A study conducted with 14-month-old children demonstrated that this technique of remembering information in smaller chunks by showing the children toys, which were later hid in a box. During the study, two of the toys were placed in the box while the other two were hidden elsewhere. Researchers wanted to see how much longer children would search for the two missing toys.

They found that when the toys were in groups of two, such as two toy cats and two toy dogs, and one of each was removed, that children seemed to remember the fact that there were two of each and continued searching the box for the missing items.

Perhaps this type of research could change the way we teach information and affect our approach to information that we want to remember.

You can read more about the story at the Johns Hopkins website.