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George A. Miller

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George Armitage Miller (3rd February 1920 in Charleston, West Virginia) is James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of Psychology, Emeritus at Princeton University. He is the author of one of the most highly cited papers in psychology, "The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two"[1] published in 1956 in Psychological Review.[2][3][4] This paper suggests that seven (plus or minus two) is the magic number that characterizes people's memory performance on random lists of letters, words, numbers, or almost any kind of meaningful familiar item.

In 1940 he received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Alabama and in 1946 he received his Ph.D. in Psychology from Harvard University.

He has served as Professor of Psychology at Rockerfeller University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at Harvard University, where he was Chairman of the Department of Psychology. He was a Fulbright Research Fellow at Oxford University and served at the President of the American Psychological Association. His most famous work was The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on our Capacity for Processing Information, which was published in 1956 in The Psychological Review.

In 1960, Miller founded the Center for Cognitive Studies at Harvard with Jerome Bruner (a cognitivist developmentalist). In the same year he published 'Plans and the Structure of Behaviour' (with Eugene Galanter and Karl Pribram), which outlined their conception of Cognitive Psychology.

He was a Fulbright Research Fellow at Oxford University. He is also a former President of the American Psychological Association, and in 1991, received the National Medal of Science.

In the linguistics community, Miller is well-known for overseeing the development of WordNet, a semantic network for the English language. Development began in 1985 and the project has received about $3 million of funding, mainly from government agencies interested in machine translation. He is also working on READER - a lexical aid that uses wordnet to help students read computer text. He spent the later part of his career building and expanding the WordNet database. He also worked on a number of commercial applications based on it, most notably, Simpli. Simpli was an early Internet search and marketing engine created by George Miller and a number of Professors and graduate students at Brown University, including Jeff Stibel, James A. Anderson and Steve Reiss. Simpli utilized WordNet to "read" search queries and disambiguate them. It was also used to read webpages and derive representative keywords so that advertising could be presented. Applied Semantics, a competing search engine that was eventually acquired by Google and evolved into Google AdSense, was based on the WordNet lexicon, as well.[5]

Preceded by:
Abraham Maslow
George A. Miller elected APA President
Succeeded by:
George W. Albee

See also



  • Miller, G.A., Galanter, E. and Pribram, K.H. (1960) Plans and the Structure of Behaviour, New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

Book Chapters


  • Miller, G.A. (1956) The magical number seven, plus or minus two; some limits on our capacity for processing information, Psychological Review 63; 81-97.
  • Miller,G.A. and Friedman, E.A. (1957)The reconstruction of mutilated English texts. Information and Control, 1(1):38-55,
  • Chomsky, N. and Miller,G.A. (1958) Finite state languages. Information and Control, 1(2):91-112.
  • Miller,G.A. Newman,E.B. and Friedman, E.A. (1958). Length-frequency statistics for written English. Information and Control, 1(4):370-389.
  • Miller,G.A. and Isard, S. (1964). Free recall of self-embedded English sentences. Information and Control, 7(3):292-303.

External links

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