The human brain is only able to store around seven things at one time in its short term memory. Because of this, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to retain much more than that amount. That is true, unless you outsmart your brain and use a method such as chunking.
What is Chunking?
Chunking is a method of grouping items together so you are able to get around this 7 item restriction. By grouping items together, you are then able to remember the groups instead of the individual items, which effectively means you can store more in your “working memory”. Chunking works to trick your short term memory into retaining more information, since it is storing the groups the items are in instead of the individual items themselves. The chunked groups are then referenced to remember each individual item. This is a great method to use when you need to pack a lot of information into your brain in a short period of time.
How Does this Method Work?
Chunking works by recoding the information you are attempting to learn. By placing items into groups, you can then remember the groups as a whole rather than each individual items. For example, lets say you have to remember an 11 digit number: 18933481655. Now, as you can see, there are eleven items to remember in this sequence. According to The Magical Number of Seven, it should be pretty much impossible for the average person to retain this sequence in their “working-memory”. You can however, beat “the magical number of seven” by grouping the numbers into chunks.
To do this, look at the number as 1-893-3348-1655. The numbers are now placed into groups. They are recoded, and displayed in a new format, which is similar to an 11 digit telephone number. We have now effectively broken the string of 11 digits into 4 groups. Now, we have a better chance of retaining these four sets of numbers rather than the 11 individual digits. Try it yourself and see how much easier is to retain the information when it is broken into chunks..
A Diagram of the Chunking Method