Recency Effect

Recency Effect definition:

The Recency Effect is the principle that the most recently presented items will most likely be remembered best. If you hear a long list of words, it is more likely that you will remember the words you heard last rather than words that occurred in the middle.

One explanation for the recency effect is that these items are still present in working memory. An additional explanation for the recency effect is related to the context: if tested immediately after rehearsal, the current temporal context can serve as a retrieval cue, which would predict more recent items to have a higher likelihood of recall.

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Primacy Effect explained:

The recency effect is often used in the same context as the Primacy Effect. They are both a part of the serial position effect, which predicts how items from a list are remembered based on their position in that list. Items first and last are generally remembered best. We already told you that the recency effect occurs at the end of a list. The primacy effect occurs when you're more likely to remember words at the beginning of a list.

A suggested reason for the primacy effect is that the initial items presented are most effectively stored in long-term memory because of the greater amount of processing devoted to them. (The first list item can be rehearsed by itself; the second must be rehearsed along with the first, the third along with the first and second, and so on.) The primacy effect is enhanced when presented slowly. Longer lists have been found to reduce the primacy effect.

From the graph below you can see where both effects occur. The recency effect is often stronger, especially when the length of the list increases.

recency effect

Recency effect example:

Read the following random words to someone nearby and see which words are remembered best.