You have 15 seconds to read and repeat the below list of states.
Alabama, California, Michigan, New Jersey, Alaska, Colorado, Arizona, Maryland, Vermont, Illinois, Virginia, Missouri, Iowa, Nevada, Texas, Indiana, New York
Quite a challenge, right? Well, how about trying the list below:
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona
Iowa, Illinois, Indiana
Maryland, Michigan, Missouri
Nevada, New Jersey, New York
Texas, Vermont, Virginia
Wasn’t it simpler this time? That’s because the list was broken into smaller groups.
The human brain is programmed to process limited information in one go. When we receive information beyond that limit, we miss out on important details, or we don’t understand them at all. This means a drop in the interest quotient. Chunking helps us remember and retain relatively long strings of data by breaking them down to smaller bits so that our brain can digest them faster.
Each of us would have delivered a presentation at some time or the other. But have you ever stopped to wonder if your slides are an overload on your audiences’ brains? Especially if you’re a trainer who has to cover topics that may not be interesting or quite confusing. The best way to face this challenge is to deliver information bit by bit.
The science behind chunking
An American psychologist, George A. Miller, published an article, “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two,” that talks about the number of objects an average human can hold in working memory. The magic number seven is the number of information bits our memory can handle at a single point of time. The bits can be a character, a word, or a sentence. According to Miller’s theory, we can hack the limit of our working memory by breaking down the content into consumable bits and removing the unnecessary data. Then we group the relevant pieces and present it in an organized pattern.
This way it becomes easier for audiences to memorize and retrieve information in chunks instead of huge paragraphs. These bits of information also act as cues, allowing for easy recollection.
Here is an example of what a presentation looks likes before and after chunking:
So the next time you have a presentation approaching, make sure you present information in digestible quantities. This way, learners will retain your content for a longer period.