FOM: ReplyToThayer

Harvey Friedman friedman at
Mon Nov 10 11:37:56 EST 1997

I wrote:

>>Question with psychological, and sociological overtones: when do formulas
>>get too complicated, >so that mathematicians simplify them by introducing
>>new  >>abbreviations? We all know that this is a crucially interesting
>>matter, since otherwise mathematicians could not actually be done. Maybe
>>there is a  >>complexity theorem here somewhere - and maybe this is
>>related to the fact that, also, humans generally can only efficietnly
>>process relatively short  >>sentences and phrases.

Thayer wrote:

>   If you are not already aware of it, there is a  lot in the experimental
>literature on what George Miller called "The magic  number 7 +/- 2".  This
>>evidence supports the conclusion that  "clumping-up" or consolidating
>things into higher order chunks is a necessary part of human perception
>and  thought >processes.  Of course there is also the somewhat newer work
>which  point out how good we are at pattern matching, which may work in a
>different  way.

Please note that in your reply, you forgot to mention any ideas, or any
useful information such as references. Was the e-mail cut off?

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