The brain can “chunk” together related “pieces” of information but we can only be consciously aware of 4-6 “chunks” at a time.
Here’s how chunking works. Look at the following sequence of numbers for a couple of seconds, and then immediately close your eyes and try to recall all of the numbers:
1 – 8 – 0 – 0 – 5 – 5 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 5 – 7
Only one in a hundred people can do this.
If, however, we regrouped these eleven numbers into four smaller “chunks” of information, you’d have no trouble remembering them. You only have to glance at the same series of numbers for a brief moment to remember it as a telephone number: 1-800-554-5657.
The brain quickly captures an “image” of each of those four chunks and places them into working memory where you can consciously recall it for a few seconds. It’s handy: you see someone’s phone number on a business card and you can remember it for as long as it takes you to dial the number. But then the information fades away, forever lost!
Even now, just twenty seconds after you first recalled that sequence of numbers, you probably won’t remember the telephone number. Why? It wasn't important enough. If, however, the sequence was your child’s cell phone number, your brain would work overtime to imprint that valuable piece of information into long-term memory. That takes repetition, and you’re only going to do that if you think the information will have value for you in the future.
This “4 Chunk” rule is essential when it comes to talking with others because their brain is only going to remember a few words that stand out for them. So when you have something important to say, slow down, be brief, and convey the essence of your message in 10 words or less. Then listen to the response.
Did that person understand you?
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