The Chunking way


Have you ever tried to remember a very long number and that still resides in your head? I'm sure that might be a challenge in doing so!. Our brain works really hard to memorize certain things like remembering the huge and long information unless we practice a number of times or try to note down somewhere.

Why our brain is so snoozed at memorizing extensive things? 

Here are a few clarifications about our brain, how it is really going to work. Firstly, our brain consists of Long-Term Memory & Short-Term (Working) Memory. Now let us know, how exactly the human brain going to work on retaining memory. Basically memories are stored as the minute chemical changes at the connection points between neurons in the brain and this connection point is called as Synapses.

These fragments (synapses) responsible for storing and transmitting the information. The parts of the brain that receive these electric impulses are dendrites. Through this information or electrical impulses flow through the neural network of the brain. By this activity of the neurons, which in turn causes these connection points (synapses) to become stronger or weaker in response.

This process of strengthening, and weakening of synapses is how exactly the brain stores the information. And to have an exceptional memory, you may need to go through such flow of connections eminently, which in turn that it could be in that kind of process through neural networks. If the information has processed in this pattern for several times by creating a tracing a mark, that information could dwell permanently in our brain. In fact, in turn doing it, we are actually pushing information further from Short-Term memory to Long-Term memory. By doing so, we are indeed storing information as a memory.

Short-term memory is an essential step toward the next stage of retention for long-term memory. The effort taken to push information from Short-Term memory to Long-Term memory is a procedure, this is how the first information has to be stored in Short-Term memory.

It can only hold a little amount of information (typically around 7 elements or even less than that) in our mind, which is in turn a readily available and in the active mode for a short period of time, ranging between 10 to 15 seconds, or at max of one minute. Now the biggest challenge is how we can achieve it. Chunking is one of the methods which help us to retain the information in the brain.

What's chunking  or chunking psychology then? 

Chunking is the sequence of materials into shorter meaningful groups to make them further manageable. For example, a hyphenated phone number, split into groups of 3 or 4 digits, tends to be easier to remember than a single long number.

The maximum number of chunks that can be efficiently processed by short-term memory is four, more or less. For example, most people can remember a list of five words for 30 seconds, but few can remember only a list of ten words for 30 seconds.

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Method of Chunking

It is the procedure of making more efficient use of short-term memory by grouping and organizing the pieces of information together. This can be used precisely only on the important information need to be chunked. If the short-term memory is stocked up, the new information will just fade away. 

Method of Chunking

When not to Chunk 

Well, Chunking is often applied as an ordinary technique to simplify method. This is a probable misdeed of the principle. That's the way it can lead to make things tough to scan. If the chunking is applied extensively, since the focus is on the group of items and not the individual items themselves. However, if you apply the concept in combination with other principles it can be used effectively to make more grouping easier to process. The limitations specified by this principle deal specifically with tasks involving memory. Chunk information could be available, when people are required to recall and retain the important information. And also when information is used for problem solving. Do not chunk information that is to be searched or scanned.

So, Designer needs to be smart enough while making decision wisely in chunking information.
 How do you chunk in your designs? Please share your thoughts. 

About Author

Srinivas Ramshetty is Ux evangelist and senior ux consultant at Intergraph. He played multiple roles in the areas of Competency Building, Managing & Leading Ux teams, User Research, User Interface Design, Interaction Design, Information Architecture, Usability Testing and Analysis across multiple business verticals while serving fortune 100 corporations. Srinivas is the certified Usability Analyst from HFI and pursuing Masters in Psychology.


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