Cook Computing

7 +- 2 Urban Legend

February 26, 2005 Written by Charles Cook

One thing that always triggers off a mini-rant in my mind is misuse of 7 +- 2 urban legend, for example "The human mind can effectively remember 7 +- 2 things" in this otherwise interesting Smalltalk advocacy article by Don Raab, used here to argue that one way Smalltalk is better than Java is that it is less complex, for example that it has only 5 keywords instead of Java's 59 or more. This debunking (PDF) of the legend by Derek Jones is worth reading to learn what George Miller's original paper - The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information - was really about and why it should not be applied outside the narrow limits of what Miller was writing about.