Miller was born on February 3, 1920 in Charleston, West Virginia, the son of George Miller, a steel company executive, and Florence Armitage Miller. Shortly after his birth, his parents divorced and he lived with his mother during the Great Depression, graduating from Charleston High School in 1937.
In 1940 he graduated from the University of Alabama with a Bachelor of Arts degree. In 1946 he received his doctorate in psychology from Harvard University. Since 1968 he has been a professor of experimental psychology at the Rockefeller University in New York, since 1979 he has been a professor of psychology at Princeton University. In 1969 he was elected president of the American Psychological Association.
His most famous work, The Magic Number Seven Plus or Minus Two, was published in 1956 in the Psychological Review. This number is also called the Yngve-Miller number.