George Miller was an American psychologist who is known for his significant contributions to the development of cognitive psychology. His work in this field has had a profound impact on the way we understand human cognition today. In this article, we will explore what George Miller did to contribute to the founding of cognitive psychology.

The Beginnings of Cognitive Psychology

Before the emergence of cognitive psychology, behaviorism dominated the field of psychology. Behaviorists believed that all behavior could be explained by environmental factors and conditioning. However, in the 1950s, a new approach began to emerge: cognitive psychology.

Cognitive psychologists focused on understanding mental processes such as perception, attention, memory, and language. They viewed the mind as an information-processing system that actively processes and manipulates information.

George Miller’s Contributions

George Miller was one of the pioneers of cognitive psychology. He believed that studying mental processes was essential for understanding behavior and improving human performance. Here are some of his most significant contributions:

The Magical Number Seven

In 1956, George Miller published a paper titled “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information.” In this paper, he argued that humans have a limited capacity for processing information.

Miller suggested that our working memory could hold around seven (plus or minus two) items at once. This theory became known as Miller’s Law and had a significant impact on our understanding of human cognition.


Another important contribution by George Miller was the concept of chunking. He proposed that we can increase our working memory capacity by grouping or “chunking” information into meaningful units.

For example, instead of trying to remember a random string of numbers like 1-9-5-7-4-2-8-6-3-0, we can group them into meaningful chunks such as 1957, 4286, and 30. This makes it easier for our working memory to process and remember the information.

Language Processing

George Miller also made significant contributions to the study of language processing. He believed that language was an essential component of human cognition and that understanding how we process language could provide valuable insights into our cognitive processes.

Miller’s research on language processing led him to propose the concept of a “mental dictionary.” He suggested that we store words in our mental dictionary along with their meanings, syntactic roles, and other relevant information. This allows us to quickly access and use words in our daily lives.


George Miller was instrumental in the founding of cognitive psychology. His work on working memory capacity, chunking, and language processing provided valuable insights into our cognitive processes. Today, cognitive psychology continues to be a vital field in psychology thanks to pioneers like George Miller who paved the way for future research.