Primacy And Recency Effect

Serial learning is a process in which the learner is exposed to series of stimuli; later the learner is asked to recall his memory in the same sequence in which stimuli have been exposed to him. Serial leaning is part of our daily life; we are required to learn things in sequence and if we do not remember the sequence it will affect our desired goal (Jensen, 1965). Examples of serial learning include baking a cake, visiting friend’s home and driving a car.

Primacy and Recency Effect

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The concept of primacy and recency effect has been explained in the serial position effect. Serial position effect means when people are exposed to series of stimuli; either they recall most of the recent ones (recency effect) or first few stimuli (primacy effect) most likely (Castel, 2008). The items in the middle are mostly hard for people to recall. Researchers believe that the items which are exposed to learners in start are saved in their long term memory and the items which are exposed to the learners in the end are saved in short term memory. That’s why when the learners are asked to recall their memories; they either retrieved those items which are saved in their short term memory and later the items exposed to them in the start (Sousa, 2006).


Primacy effect

Series of prizes are mentioned for playing a game. We mostly remember the first few prizes giving the most importance to the first few prizes.

Recency effect

Being close to a friend for years and then recently you have a fight with her; will make you change your opinion about her because of the recent fight. This is the recency effect bias.

Free Recall, Cued Recall, and Recognition Memory

Learners are exposed to several stimuli. Later on the learners are asked to recall the items


In free recall learners are allowed to recall in any sequence. Whereas in cued recall, learners are given hints to recall the stimuli. In recognition memory the stimulus helps to remember some previous events or feelings. Selective retention is done through the process of recognition memory.


Free Recall – when an accident happens news reporter asks witness to know what happened. The witness recalls freely and describes the incident.

Cued Recall – when the accident is recalled by the eye witness; the reporters asks him about criminal’s identification (how he looks, what he was wearing) which the eye witness might not able to recall if he is not given hints.

Recognition Memory – once the suspects of the accidents are captured by the police; eye witness is asked to recognize the criminals.

Encoding and Retrieval of Information from Memory

Encoding is a process of observing and converting the information into a form which is stored in short and long term memory of human memory (Mohs, 2011). Retrieval is the process in which the human brain brings back the information from his mind’s storage of memory.

Variable of encoding of information

Intention to learn

Utilization of imagery


Example of encoding of information

Intention to learn effects the encoding of information in our minds. For example while preparing for my exams; how hardly I memorize the lectures depends on my intention to learn.

Variable of retrieval of information


Use of mnemonic devices


Lack of interference

Example of Retrieval of information from memory

Things I like the most and closer to me; I place them in the top shelf of my cupboard having special association with them. Whenever I need anything closer to me; I always look for it in my top shelf.

Learning without Any Real Awareness or Intention to Learn

Learning can occur without real awareness or intention to learn. It is because of unconscious processing of our brains. Such kind of learning is known as the adaptive unconsciousness and learning by osmosis.


I learnt French without knowing that I am learning this language. I learnt because people around me speak this language.

Sometimes a song plays in my mind not because it’s my favorite song. It is because that I heard the song in some shop or TV channel.

Mnemonic Used in Learning Material

A learning technique which is used to encourage information retention is known as Mnemonic (Kelly, 2009). In this technique, musical nodes and memory tools are used for learning material. For example;

We all remember complete ABC with the rhyme.

When I was a kid while solving algorithms problems I use to remember a phrase (some people have curly brown hair through proper brushing). This phrase helps me to remember all three formulas of algorithms related to Cos, Sin, Tan.

Forgetting an Intentional or Unintentional Act

According to Jones (2009) forgetting can be both intentional act and unintentional act. Some memories are intentionally forgotten by humans; such memories are known as suppressing memories. Memories which are forgotten unintentionally are known as repressing memories. Examples

The memory of intentionally forgetting the fight with a best friend

Forgetting someone’s name is unintentional act

Forgetting the lyrics of a song after listening to it numerous times is an unintentional act

Recovering Repressed Memories

Repressed memories can be recovered (Loftus, 1993) in the form of flashbacks or also through some external stimuli (medications or therapies). Either way these memories do not come in right sequence (Grow Media, 2005). These memories in form of flashbacks can be easily manipulated and can be false memories.


I have phobia of lizards without knowing about the event after which I got afraid of lizards

After having numerous fights in childhood, we still have good relation with siblings because the memories have been repressed.

Events and conditions which invoke extreme and intense emotions are most likely remembered by the human beings. For example, I remember I was planning to visit a friend at the incident to 9/11. The incident became a historical event and memories related to that event are still in my mind.


A set of diverse cognitive capacities which retain and re-enact information and past experiences is known as ‘Memory’. The factors affecting the memory can be both internal and external (Krell, 1990).

Internal and External Factors

According to Warnock (1987) internal factors that contribute their role in affecting memory are age, aptitude, attitude, behavior, neurological factors cognitive style, hormonal imbalance of a person. According to Spada (1993) neurological factors such as tumors and abscesses in memory domain of the brain cause memory dysfunction and may cause permanent diminishing of memory.

External factors which affect memory are environmental factors, contexts of learning and teaching, input, interaction and. Physical and social activities also affect the memory.


I observe that when I pass an exam with a good grade, I become positively motivated. In the next exam of that particular subject I usually study with motivation and my memory recalling power increases considerably.

Emotions and Memory

Any event or occasion that involves extreme emotions on the person’s part is likely to become a permanent part of that person’s memory. According to Mark (2011), a trauma can cause a person considerable damage in his personality. This is because the trauma has imprinted itself into the memory of that person.


I passed my intermediate exams scoring above average marks. Though my expectations were high, I got even higher result which involved emotions of delight, pleasure and joy. Thus it is stored in my memory even when several years have passed after that day.

Age and Memory

Memory loss can occur with the aging process. Following are the reasons of decline in memory with age:

Human brain has a region that is responsible for the formation of memory and its retrieval. This region is called ‘hippocampus’. As the human body ages, so does the hippocampus region which suffers deterioration due to aging (Connor, 2001).

According to Smith (2012) with the aging process the growth factors of the human body also start to age. As the growth hormones age, the memory abilities of the person declines.

In old age, a decrease in the blood flow to the brain can stimulate changes in the cognitive skills. The change in cognitive skills can cause impairing of memory in old age.

The absorption of nutrients which cause brain enhancement decreases in efficiency with old age. Thus diminishing the memory abilities.


My father has reached to mid 60s and with his advancing age we have observed a significant loss in memory. Most of the times he tends to forget what he has done the day before.

Gender Differences in Learning and Memory

Four classes of tasks related to memory have been reported for which the genders show different learning and memory patterns. These classes are:

Spatial memory

Emotional memory

Autobiographical memory

Verbal memory

In daily life it is observed that female sex exhibit emotional behavior in higher proportions than the male sex. Male sex is inclined towards the logical thinking and tends to remain logical even in extreme duress. These differences exist due to the natural capabilities and tendencies of opposite sexes towards emotions and logical thinking.


During exams, I am anxious and tense while my brother remains calm and conscious. With his calm logic, he is able to cram and learn more than me.

Learning in pre-natal Stage

According to Montessori (1912) the children start their learning process, nine months before they come into this world. In the past the unborn child was considered a non-thinking, unfeeling entity that only started its emotional development once brought into the world. However Verney (1981) presented the theory that a fetus is a being that feels, remembers, and is aware of all its surrounding while it is still residing in the womb. The theory of Verney is also seconded by Gabriel (1992).


One of the first things that babies do after coming in this world is to cry. In accord of the theory of aware unborn child, we can presume that babies have the capability to learn while still inside their mother’s womb.

Impact of Anxiety on memory

According to Harms, (2012) anxiety and stress are known to be the most common memory depressants. If it persists, it is likely to cause hindrance in the brain normal functions. While in anxiety, the brain secrets a hormone known as adrenaline. Adrenaline compels the body to release cortisol to the bloodstream which stays in the blood for an extended period of time. This residual cortisol, when given extra time, causes unfavorable effects on the brain cells which ultimately leads to memory loss or other related diseases (Guru, 2008).


Examination creates anxiety, thus brain refuses to function normally. Most commonly we observe people get blank while attempting exam, and they become unable to solve the questions even though they didn’t lack in their preparation.

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