George Armitage Miller: Biography of a Pioneer in Cognitive Psychology

George A. Miller (1920-2012) was an American psychologist who provided knowledge highly relevant to psychology and cognitive neuroscience. Among other things, he analyzed how humans process the information we receive and was the first to claim that our memory has the capacity to store up to seven differential elements at a time.

Then we will see a biography of George A. Miller, As well as some of his major contributions to cognitive psychology.

    George A. Miller: Biography of a Cognitive Psychologist

    George Armitage Miller, better known as George A. Miller, was born on February 3, 1920 in Charleston, United States. In 1940 he graduated with an advanced degree in history and speech, and a year later, in 1941, he obtained a master’s degree in the same field. Both degrees were part of the University of Alabama curriculum.

    Finally in 1946 he obtained a doctorate in psychology from Harvard University.

    As part of his activities at the latter institution, Miller worked with the US Army Signal Corps during World War II. In fact, in 1943 Miller conducted a military investigation into the intelligibility of speech and sound; subjects that moved years later in his studies on psycholinguistics.

    He then worked as a lecturer and researcher at the same university, as well as at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Rockefeller University. Years later, in 1979, he began academic activities at Princeton University, where he was recognized as Professor Emeritus in 1990.

    He was also a member of the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. He was also co-founder (with Jerome S. Bruner) of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Harvard in 1960, and participated in the creation of the Princeton Laboratory of Cognitive Science in 1986.

    Thanks to his theories on short-term memory, Miller he is recognized as one of the founders of cognitive science and cognitive neuroscience. He has also made important contributions to the studies of psycholinguistics and human communication, earning him the Outstanding Life Contribution Award for Psychology, from the American Psychological Association (APA).

      From the behaviorist paradigm to cognitive psychology

      During George A. Miller’s years as a researcher in psychology (between 1920 and 1950), the behaviorist paradigm was in full swing. One of the things behaviorism argued was that the mind could not be studied scientifically, since it was not an entity, reality was observable.

      In other words, for behaviorism there was no possibility to scientifically study mental processes, because they are states and operations that cannot be directly observed.

      Miller, on the other hand, argued that the behaviorist paradigm could be very limiting. From his point of view, mental phenomena if they could constitute a legitimate object of study for empirical research in psychology.

      Short-term memory studies

      Miller was interested in measure the mind’s ability to establish information processing channels. From his research, he found that people could reliably associate between four and ten continuous stimuli.

      For example, noises, line lengths, or a series of dots. People could quickly identify the stimulus as long as there were seven or less, and they could keep between five and nine items in immediate memory.

      With this, he developed one of his greatest proposals: short-term memory in human beings is not unlimited, but has the general capacity to store up to seven pieces of information. In addition, this ability can be changed depending on how subsequent processes are performed, like recoding information.

      The above is recognized to this day as one of the basic assumptions of information processing, precisely because it has argued that human memory can only effectively capture a total of seven units at a time (more or at least two additional pieces of information).

      For example, the latter occurs when when to distinguish between different sounds, Or when we have to perceive an object by means of a disguised or very rapid gaze.

      Impact on psychology

      Miller’s proposals had a significant impact on subsequent research in cognitive psychology, which ultimately leads to the development and validation of psychometric tests for the study of memory and other cognitive processes.

      He also generalized the idea that it is important to limit the number of items that are presented to a person when it is desired that they retain certain information (for example the digits of a number or the number of stimuli. that make up a presentation, etc. enabled).).

      remarkable works

      Some of George A. Miller’s most important works are Language and Communication, 1951; Driving plans and structure, 1957; I The magic number 7:00, plus or minus two: some limitations in our ability to process information, From 1956, which is perhaps the work that marked his debut as a prestigious cognitive psychologist.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Doorey, M. (2018). George A. Miller. Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed August 29, 2018.Available at
      • Pinker, S. (2012). George A. Miller (1920-2012). Obituaries. American Psychological Association. Accessed August 29, 2018.Available at

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