By George A. Miller. “My problem is that I have been perse­cuted by an integer. For seven years this number has followed me around, has intruded in my most private data, and has assaulted me from the pages of our most public jour­nals. This number assumes a variety of disguises, being some­times a little larger and some­times a little smaller than usual, but never changing so much as to be unrec­og­niz­able. The persis­tence with which this number plagues me is far more than a random acci­dent. There is, to quote a famous senator, a design behind it, some pattern governing its appear­ances. Either there really is some­thing unusual about the number or else I am suffering from delu­sions of perse­cu­tion.

I shall begin my case history by telling you about some exper­i­ments that tested how accu­rately people can assign numbers to the magni­tudes of various aspects of a stim­ulus. In the tradi­tional language of psychology these would be called exper­i­ments in absolute judg­ment. Histor­ical acci­dent, however, has decreed that they should have another name. We now call them exper­i­ments on the capacity of people to transmit infor­ma­tion. Since these exper­i­ments would not have been done without the appear­ance of infor­ma­tion theory on the psycho­log­ical scene, and since the results are analyzed in terms of the concepts of infor­ma­tion theory, I shall have to preface my discus­sion with a few remarks about this theory.” · Go to The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing infor­ma­tion →