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Memory. 1998 May;6(3):225-55.

Expert chess memory: revisiting the chunking hypothesis.

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  • 1Carnegie Mellon University, USA.


After reviewing the relevant theory on chess expertise, this paper re-examines experimentally the finding of Chase and Simon (1973a) that the differences in ability of chess players at different skill levels to copy and to recall positions are attributable to the experts' storage of thousands of chunks (patterned clusters of pieces) in long-term memory. Despite important differences in the experimental apparatus, the data of the present experiments regarding latencies and chess relations between successively placed pieces are highly correlated with those of Chase and Simon. We conclude that the two-second inter-chunk interval used to define chunk boundaries is robust, and that chunks have psychological reality. We discuss the possible reasons why Masters in our new study used substantially larger chunks than the Master of the 1973 study, and extend the chunking theory to take account of the evidence for large retrieval structures (templates) in long-term memory.

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