Study: People Remember Four Things At Once

Your brain machinery is clunky, only remembering 3-4 things at a time

Human memory is short. And we would do well to remember that, say researchers at the University of Missouri- Columbia. Their study on the storage capacity of the conscious mind or working memory, as reported by, caps the limit at a mere three or four.

Working memory is a more active version of short-term memory, which refers to the temporary storage of information. Working memory relates to the information one can pay attention to and manipulate.

Study: People Remember Four Things At Once

Scientists have long debated the number of items the human brain can recall instantaneously. Early research found the working memory cut-off to be about seven items. Now scientists think the true capacity is lower when people are not allowed to use tricks like repeating items over and over or grouping items together. “For example, when we present phone numbers, we present them in groups of three and four, which helps us to remember the list,’’ said psychologist Nelson Cowan, who co-led the study with colleagues Jeff Rouder and Richard Morey.

The study was published on April 14 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

While the average person may only be able to hold three or four things in mind at once, some people have achieved amazing feats of working memory. Contestants at the World Memory Championships often recall hundreds of digits in order after only five minutes. But even these masters of memory seem to start with the same basic capacities as everyone else, and improve their abilities with strategies and tricks. Via Times of India