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Abstract

For over 50 years, seven plus or minus two has been a commonly used guideline for gauging how many chunks of new information should be presented at one time in learning and performance situations. Often cited as the limit of working memory, this guideline was created as a result of misinterpreting an article by Miller (1956). More recent studies suggest that the limit for working memory is more like three, and sometimes four, with various factors influencing the capacity of an individual's working memory. Given too much novel information at one time, learners and performers can be derailed by cognitive overload. Instructional designers and performance consultants can adjust the presentation of new information to manage intrinsic, extraneous, and germane cognitive load. This column provides suggestions about how to reduce cognitive overload to improve learning and performance.