The human mind and its extraordinary ability to remember many things at a time have never failed to amaze us. There are also many people that struggle to remember things and have a terrible memory, frequently forgetting names and faces.
You can’t help but wonder how many things you can remember at once.
The kind of memory that stores information at once is your short-term memory.
From many psychological experiments, we can see that the short-term memory of the human mind can hold only a certain amount of separate, unrelated items. The average capacity is roughly 7 items, give or take 2, and it depends on the person.
Short-term memory is also called working memory, and it does not have the capacity to retain information for more than a few seconds. In order to remember information for a longer period, you repeat it to yourself multiple times to commit it to your long-term memory.
Many students use that strategy to memorize their study materials in order to cram and prepare for tests at the last minute. This practice is also called rote-learning, and the drawback of this way of using long-term (or intermediate-term) memory is that you can completely forget it unless you’re prompted by the beginning of this string of information.
Chunking – The Possibility of Remembering More
The fact behind the 7-item limit is that the human brain can remember only 7 unrelated items. Which means that there is a possibility that you can remember more by using association and making connections. If you connect an item to several others, then it becomes one item in your mind, filed away like a folder instead of separate files. This is how you can remember many things by using mnemonics and other acronyms.
You can remember many – almost countless – thing in your long-term memory, but you will not be able to recall them at once. In order to make the most of your working memory, you need to practice making connections between ideas and group items together to make them easier for your brain to remember them in chunks.