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What is Chunking (psychology)?

In cognitive psychology, chunking is a process by which individual pieces of an information set are broken down and then grouped together in a meaningful whole. The chunks by which the information is grouped is meant to improve short-term retention of the material, thus bypassing the limited capacity of working memory. A chunk is a collection of basic familiar units that have been grouped together and stored in a person's memory. These chunks are able to be retrieved more easily due to their coherent familiarity. It is believed that individuals create higher order cognitive representations of the items within the chunk. The items are more easily remembered as a group than as the individual items themselves. These chunks can be highly subjective because they rely on an individuals perceptions and past experiences, that are able to be linked to the information set. The size of the chunks generally range anywhere from two to six items, but often differ based on language and culture. According to Johnson (1970), there are four main concepts associated with the memory process of chunking: chunk, memory code, decode, and recode. The chunk, as mentioned prior, is a sequence of to-be-remembered information that can be composed of adjacent terms. These item or information sets are to be stored in the same memory code. The process of recoding is where one learns the code for a chunk, and decoding is when the code is translated into the information that it represents. The phenomenon of chunking as a memory mechanism is easily observed in the way individuals group numbers, and information, in the day-to-day life. For example, when recalling a number such as 12101946, if numbers are grouped as 12, 10 and 1946, a mnemonic is created for this number as a day, month and year. It would be stored as December 10, 1946 instead of a string of numbers. Similarly, another illustration of the limited capacity of working memory as suggested by George Miller can be seen from the following example: While recalling a mobile phone number such as 9849523450, we might break this into 98 495 234 50. Thus, instead of remembering 10 separate digits that is beyond the "seven plus-or-minus two" memory span, we are remembering four groups of numbers.

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actactivitycomputingeventmemory managementmemory processemnemonicprocedurepsychology


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