Chunking: the definition, meaning and theory of psychology (2023)

Chunking: the definition, meaning and theory of psychology (1)

Fragmentation: This article explainsfragmentationin a practical way. It covers what chunking is, its purpose, where it came from, what its main elements are, how it improves memory, and how to practice chunking. In addition, it provides a roadmap for fragmentation, including examples and alternative mnemonic techniques. Finish with a summary. After reading this article you will understand the basics of this powerfulpsychological tooljmnemonic technique.

What is chunking? definition

Fragmentation is a method of cognitive psychology. Fragmentation is the process of breaking down the individual parts of a given set of information and grouping them into a logical and meaningful whole. This positively influences the ability to process information.

Chunking is a memory technique. A memory technique is a technique that a person can use to improve their memory. It is simply a shortcut that allows the human to associate the information to be remembered with an image, phrase, word or other mnemonic device.

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What is the purpose of chunking?

The purpose of fragmentation is to preserve information for the short term by breaking it up into blocks. The limited storage capacity of the human working memory is overlooked. A chunk or piece is a collection of basic units that are grouped and stored in a person's long-term memory.

These fragments are easily recalled from memory due to their familiarity. Items are more easily remembered in a group than individual items. Information can be very subjective as it depends on a person's previous perceptions and experiences. The size of so-called chunks varies, but the total amount usually consists of two to seven pieces.

How did chunking emerge as a psychological tool?

1956 Professor an der Harvard UniversityJorg Muellerpublished an article entitled:"The Magic Number Seven Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits of Our Information Processing Capacity".

In the article, he described the results of a series of cognitive experiments he conducted with his colleagues. Miller found that people can generally remember five to nine pieces of information. Seven was and is average.

Of course, mnemonic techniques were in use long before that time. Some of these techniques date back to ancient Greece. Today everyone uses these memory techniques.

Chunking im Psychologiestudium

Fragmentation is a widely and intensively researched process. Many practical studies of fragmentation in psychology take the form of case studies and experiments. Additional research has also expanded the definition of fragmentation in psychology. This includes not only an explanation of fragmentation, but in almost all cases also a summary of the basics of fragmentation. An article by Neal Johnson discusses fragmentation in psychology and provides an incomplete definition of the method.

Core elements of the chunking method

Fourteen years after George Miller's research, Neal Johnson wrote a paper describing four main concepts of the memory process and fragmentation. They are: chunk, memory code, decoding and recoding. The chunk, as discussed above, is the set of information that is remembered. These items are stored in code memory. Transcoding is learning a piece's code, and decoding is translating the code back into the information it represents.

The phenomenon of fragmentation as a memory mechanism can be easily observed in everyday life. Take, for example, the way people combine numbers and information when remembering phone numbers or addresses. A phone number like 14121998 is easy to remember by dividing it into 14, 12, and 1998. For example, the number is stored as December 14, 1998 instead of as a series of individual digits. Others divide the number into parts of 3 or parts of 2.

How does chunking improve memory?

A 2019 study by the University of Zurich describes how fragmentation as a memory mechanism affects memory. This study tested whether clustering actually helps to circumvent the limited capacity of working memory.

The experiments conducted by the researchers showed that clustering could store and retrieve not only blocks of information, but also non-fragmented information stored at one time. This supports the assumption that fragmentation partially relieves working memory or short-term memory.

The researchers also looked at whether the size of the information affects these benefits. As long as the information stays linked, the size of the information doesn't matter. Only when disjointed information needs to be remembered does the block size determine how efficiently it can be stored.

How do I practice chunking?

For many students and professionals, fragmentation is one of the best ways to remember information. However, not all chunks are created equal, so some require more attention than others. The same goes for someone who learns to play the piano by listening and playing.

A beginner listens to the piece several times and learns to play it bit by bit. Fragmentation as a mnemonic is not difficult to accomplish. Identifying the fragments is probably the most difficult part of the fragmentation process. Below is a step-by-step roadmap. Follow this roadmap and learn to remember information in a new way in four steps.

Roadmap to shredding, including examples

Whether it's a high school history test, important points from a meeting, or a classmate's review, chunking can be used whenever things need to be remembered. Follow the 4-step plan below to use this storage engine yourself.

Step 1: Identify the fragments

First, it is important to choose the right information. Students can get a timeline of dates and events from their history teacher for them to study. The piano student may need to practice large octave jumps in a piece of music that requires prior practice. Circle these parts immediately. When all the information has been covered, the pieces can be learned.

Step 2: Take your time

Don't expect that what you learn will be completed in one session depending on the situation. There's a reason people learn scraps of information: what they learn is often difficult. Sometimes it is necessary for someone to sleep first before you can move on to the next piece. If needed, schedule the week to learn a different piece each day and review the previous piece.

(Video) Chunking - Intro to Psychology

Step 3: Start slow

Just because the big picture is only 5 pieces of information doesn't mean you have to rush through it and hope your memory catches up. Start slowly and make sure there are no mistakes in what you have learned.

Make sure that the order is correct, the pieces are connected and what you have learned is firmly anchored in your memory.

Step 4: Integration with Existing Parts

Then each piece needs to be connected to the rest of the pieces. Many people forget this last step. As a result, transition parts can be messy.

When it comes to playing the piano, it seems that the pianist needs a short break between different parts to move on to the next.

To move smoothly from one piece to another, another strategy is used: chaining. Each piece is made slightly larger, so that in the end everything consists of 1 piece.

The relationship between experience and memory capacity

Several studies have shown that people can remember things better when they try to remember things they are familiar with. Likewise, people tend to create blocks of information that they are familiar with. This level of familiarity makes it easier for people to remember more blocks, as well as the more specific content of those blocks of information.

Chase and Ericsson conducted a well-known experiment. They worked with students for two years to see if a person's numerical scale could be expanded through practice. A student was a long-distance runner.

By dividing a row of numbers into race times, your range of numbers has been expanded. Where the usual average is 7 numbers, this student was able to memorize 80 numbers that they associated with race times. The student then explained that he could expand his strategy by including age and years in the information. It made it easier for him to remember the fragments.

It is important to note that a person who lacks knowledge in a particular specialty, such as B. travel times, it would be harder to remember so many numbers with this method.

Alternative memory techniques

Besides breaking information into parts using the chunking technique, there are also some other mnemonic techniques. The most common are briefly explained below.

Methode loci

The loci method has been a mnemonic device since ancient Greek times. This makes it one of the oldest information storage techniques known today. Usage is easy. Imagine a house you know. You can divide the house into different rooms.

These different spaces represent information to be remembered. Another example is using a route. It's helpful to choose a familiar route for your commute home. The various landmarks along the way provide information.


Another mnemonic technique is the use of acronyms. An acronym is a word formed from the first letters or groups of letters in a name or phrase. An acrostic is a series of lines that make up certain letters, such as B. the first letters of all lines come from a word or sentence. These techniques are used as mnemonic aids in memorizing the first letters of certain words.

Examples of acronyms are:EFQM-Modell,RACI-Model,Model ADKAR,Pest Model,Model ADDIE,SWOT-Modeland many more.

I postpone

A rhyme is a proverb with similar rhyming patterns. These finals can appear at the end of the line or elsewhere in the sentence. Rhymes are easy to remember because they are stored acoustically in the brain.


Visualizations are a very effective way to learn information. Speech and visualizations are often used to memorize pairs of words like green grass, yellow sun, blue water, etc.

The loci method is also a way of using views. By remembering specific images, you can help people remember information associated with that image.

Fragmentation summary

Chunking is a memory mechanism that helps people remember information by breaking it down into smaller pieces. Chunking is a memory technique. A mnemonic technique means that it helps people improve their memory skills.

Chunking relieves the normal working memory of the brain. Snippets or related information are easier to remember than individual pieces of information. A fragment usually consists of two to seven elements.

Chunking is often used in everyday life. An example of this is the way people remember phone numbers. One learns the number in pairs, another converts the number to a date, and another learns the number digit by digit.

Chunking is very easy to use and practice. It is important to first identify the most important things to learn from the body of information.

Depending on the amount of information and the size of the pieces, make a good plan outlining memory activities for each day. Start slowly, making sure there are no learning and repetitive errors, and use thread to piece the pieces together.

(Video) What is Chunking | Explained in 2 min

Chase and Ericsson conducted an experiment among college students for two years. This showed that a long-distance runner could remember 80 numbers when it came to race times, ages, and years. That's a lot more than the seven numbers that the average person normally remembers.

In addition to chunking, there are other very effective memory techniques. The loci method is the oldest of these. The ancient Greek method allows people to use their imagination. Dividing a family home into multiple rooms and associating information objects with each room makes information easier to remember.

Acronyms are another mnemonic technique. An acronym is a word formed from the first letters of a specific word or phrase.

Rhymes are also used to remember information. Because certain syllables rhyme on each line, the information is stored in the auditory part of memory. This also relieves the working memory.

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Now it is your turn

What do you think?Do you recognize yourself in the explanation of the drill-down method? Is this tool used in your own work environment? If not, do you think this could be valuable for your work? What other useful troubleshooting methods and tools do you know? What do you think are the pros and cons of the drill down technique? Do you have any advice or a solution?

Share your experiences and knowledge in the comments box below.

More information

  1. Ellis, North Carolina (1996).SLA sequencing: phonological memory, fragmentation and ordering points. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 91-126.
  2. Thornton, M.A. und Conway, A.R. (2013).Working memory for social information: chunking or domain-specific buffering?. NeuroImage, 70, 233–239.
  3. Bellezza, F. S. und Young, D. R. (1989).Fragmentation of repeated events in memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 15(5), 990.
  4. Gobet, F. and Simon, H.A. (1998).Reminder to the Chess Expert: Verifying the Fragmentation Hypothesis. Memoirs, 6(3), 225-255.

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(Video) Chunking: Intro Psychology, Memory #5

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