HOME : About DITC : Movie List : Links : Bibliography : Movie Comparison : Site Map : Search
Getting Started Select Design Task Learn About Design

Primacy/Recency Effect

One of more secure findings of laboratory-based cognitive science studies involves which of a number of items that are being learned get learned most easily and for the longest time. If you give a subject a list of words or numbers, the items that get remembered first and most securely are: the first item on the list, and the last item on the list. The former is called the primacy effect because the initial item is being preferentially remember. The last item is also the most recently practiced one and so the name recency effect for the better memory performance with those items.

Knowing about this can be helpful for teachers as well as designers. Teachers who are alert to this finding can alter the ordering of presentation of key ideas or processes (like designing) so that more than the first and last items are remembered. Regarding the design process, then, this finding would suggest that students learning about designing would remember the Find/Revise Problem and Test/Evaluate steps better than those embedded in the cycle. Other factors probably influence what people remember most easily about designing, however. Brainstorming is often associated with designing even though it is a process that occurs somewhere in the early portion of design work. Perhaps this is because it is one of the most dramatic moments when breakthroughs and discoveries are made.

Designers would do well to know this effect on learning since it predicts that users will remember certains items from a list of instructions longer and better than others.

Return To Top