Related to the recency effect (see previous post), Ebbinghaus also found that a person’s recall accuracy for a list of words is better for the words at the beginning of the list. The reason for this “primacy effect” is because people tend to rehearse words learned at the beginning of the list while being presented with further items. This rehearsal leads to enhanced processing of the first items, resulting in the items being stored in long-term memory. The serial position effect, therefore, is that items at the beginning (primacy) and items at the end (recency) of a list of information (e.g., word list) are more easily remembered than items in the middle. The primacy effect can be reduced with speeded presentation of list items.

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