A Psychology Minute: Primacy and Recency Effect

Okay quick. Have someone close by read this number to you slowly: 7397486312. If you are like most people, it is difficult to remember all these digits. But if you do recall some, it is most likely to be the beginning and ending numbers.

These complimentary phenomenon are called the “primacy effect” and the “recency effect.” It is the idea that when presented with a large amount of information, we tend to best remember those events that happened first (primacy) and those that happened most recently (recency). In the process, we tend to forget what comes in the middle.

Timing is not only relevant when learning new information, but also in processing various experiences that shape our worldview. Whether it is our first love or last encounter or first taste or the last mile, these experiences tend to stand out in our minds. But while first or last might be the headliner, it the experiences in the middle that teach and form us the most. This is the body of our “story.” As any marathoner knows, it is often the first and last miles that are the most memorable. But the middle ones make the long run possible.

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