Learning increasingly complex ideas may amount to forming larger effective chunk sizes

Complex ideas may be hard to learn in part because their components overflow working memory. But Human channel capacity increases with bits-per-chunk, and Recoding can increase chunk size. So when you’re finally able to learn something that’s eluded you, it may be because you’ve finally encoded large enough chunks (“Chunks” in human cognition) representing the constituents.

Miller suggested a narrower interpretation of this notion in his paper introducing the term (1956, p. 95):

It seems probable that even memorization can be studied in these terms. The process of memorizing may be simply the formation of chunks, or groups of items that go together, until there are few enough chunks so that we can recall all the items.


Miller, G. A. (1956). The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information. Psychological Review, 63(2), 81–97. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0043158 Miller - The magical number seven, plus or minus two