Psych Serial Position Effect

psych serial position effect

Cognition Laboratory Experiments. John H. Krantz, Hanover College, krantzj Home. Serial Position Effect; False Memory; Mental.

Serial position effect is the tendency of a person to recall the first and last items in a series best, and the middle items worst. 1 The term was coined by Hermann.

After you have finished making your settings, press the Done button at the bottom of the screen. The serial position experiment screen will then be presented.

By Saul McLeod published 2008

Some of the strongest evidence for the multi-store model Atkinson Shiffrin, 1968 comes from serial position effect studies and studies of brain damaged patients.

Experiments show that when participants are presented with a list of words, they tend to remember the first few and last few words and are more likely to forget those in the middle of the list.

This is known as the serial position effect. The tendency to recall earlier words is called the primary effect; the tendency to recall the later words is called the recency effect.

Murdock 1962 Experiment


Murdock asked participants to learn a list of words that varied in length from 10 to 40 words and free recall them. Each word was presented for one to two seconds.


He found that the probability of recalling any word depended on its position in the list its serial position.

Words presented either early in the list or at the end were more often recalled, but the ones in the middle were more often forgotten. This is known as serial position effect.

The improved recall of words at the beginning of the list is called the primary effect; that at the end of the list, the recency effect. This recency effect exists even when the list is lengthened to 40 words.


Murdock suggested that words early in the list were put into long term memory primacy effect because the person has time to rehearse each word acoustically.

Words from the end of the list went into short term memory recency effect which can typically hold about 7 items.

Words in the middle of the list had been there too long to be held in short term memory STM due to displacement and not long enough to be put into long term memory LTM. This is referred as a asymptote.

In a nutshell, when participants remember primary and recent information, it is thought that they are recalling information from two separate stores STM and LTM. /p

Glanzer and Cunitz 1966 Experiment

Glanzer and Cunitz presented two groups of participants with the same list of words. One group recalled the words immediately after presentation, while the other group recalled the words after waiting 30 seconds. These participants had to count backwards in threes the Brown-Peterson technique, which prevented rehearsal and caused the recency effect to disappear. Both groups could free recall the words in any order. Results

The words at the end of the list are only remembered if recalled first and tested immediately. Delaying recall by 30 seconds prevented the recency effect.


Atkinson, R. C., Shiffrin, R. M. 1968. Chapter: Human memory: A proposed system and its control processes. In Spence, K. W., Spence, J. T. The psychology of learning and motivation Volume 2. New York: Academic Press. pp. 89–195.

Glanzer, M., Cunitz, A. R. 1966. Two storage mechanisms in free recall. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 5 4, 351-360.

Murdock, B. B. 1962. The serial position effect of free recall. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 64 5, 482–488.

How to cite this article:

McLeod, S. A. 2008. Serial Position Effect. Retrieved from

Whether you are listening to a speaker, or watching a movie, or reading a book, there seems to be a common theme among most people when it comes to remembering the.

Psychology Definition of SERIAL POSITION EFFECT: The effect an item s position has to how well we remember it.

psych serial position effect

Some of the strongest evidence for the multi-store model Atkinson Shiffrin, 1968 comes from serial position effect studies and studies of brain damaged patients.

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Psychology definition for Serial Position Effect in normal everyday language, edited by psychologists, professors and leading students. Help us get better.

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Dec 08, 2010  Psychology IA 1. An experimental investigation of the serial position effect: Does the use of a highlighted font alter the recall of words.IB Psychology SL.