Serial Position Effect

Synonyms: Primacy Effect, Recency Effect

People remember the first and the last pieces of information in a series better than the ones in the middle. It is called the serial position effect. The middle part of the block of information will be forgotten faster. The term was first used by Hermann Ebbinghaus, who studied the mechanisms of memorization. Let’s find out more to use this knowledge in the design.

How to Use

When we talk about the serial position effect, we mean that we better memorize things that are in the beginning and at the end of the list. When we remember the items at the beginning it is called the primacy effect. When we remember the items at the end, it is called the recency effect.


Here is how we can use it.


Because of the serial position effect, the users will remember their last experience with it. So, finish strong. Create a satisfying ending experience for the users. Offer something interesting, provide helpful information or create a fun experience. Leave a good impression, because people will remember it.




Test it anyway. Even when we know about the tendency of memorizing the first and the last parts, we still want to test location options of our information to choose the best variant.


Provide your product with tools that help users to find needed information. It will help them to save energy while using your product. In other words, do everything you can to make the interactions with your product easier and faster. 


As the simplest example in this case we can name Microsoft Word’s informational block that provides us information about the number of symbols in the text. So we don’t need to look for a tool to find it out, and we save our energy.




Include help messages into the interface, so the users can remember the important information faster. When the user spends less time and effort while using your product it means that he saves his energy for other things.

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