Serial Position Effect

Topics: Serial position effect, Short-term memory, Memory Pages: 20 (2147 words) Published: December 4, 2014

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Assignment Title:Research Report (Assignment 2) To ascertain if the serial position of a word, influences word recall by analyzing the primacy and recency effect. No of Words:2,259

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To ascertain if the serial position of a word, influences word recall by analysing the primacy and recency effect


“Memory does not comprise a single unitary system, but rather an array of interacting systems, each capable of encoding or registering information, storing it and making it available by retrieval” (Daddeley, 2013, p. 18). This study was designed to look more closely at the memory and in particular to investigate if our ability to recall a list of words is affected by serial position of the words. It will specifically analyse if recall is influenced by the primacy and recency effect. This information may have major consequences on the way we carry out a variety of tasks, e.g. prepare for an interview, study for an exam etc. The results of the study provided strong evidence that word recall is affected by the serial position of the words, however it indicated that the recency effect may not have as great an influence as previously thought. This study will document the steps involved in this experiment, as they were completed, as well as the results of the study, which were illustrated by means of histograms using SPSS. This study can be easily replicated by following the steps outlined in the following pages.


Each day each of us uses our memory, either in memory storage or memory retrieval. Many studies have looked at the processes involved in the retention of information, the difference between short term memory and long term memory and also the effect this will have on how we recall this information. The multi-store model has been fundamental to theorists understanding of memory and its functions. According to Atkinson & Shiffrin, (1968) there are three different types of memory storage; Sensory Stores

Short term store
Long term store

Firstly there are sensory stores, which process modality specific information (e.g. hearing, smell) very briefly before they are developed by the short or long term stores. According to Miller (1956) the Short Term store has extremely limited capacity. He concluded that the maximum number units that an individual could recall without error, was normally “seven plus or minus two” (Eysenck & Keane. (2010). p.207). Miller expanded this by stating if we ‘chunked’ words into phrases or sentences, which are related, we increase our ability to hold information in our short term memories. Ebbinghaus (1885) was amongst the first to study memory with his study on forgetting. He proposed the serial position effect, which outlines that when recalling items on a list, the position of these items is hugely important.

Murdock (1962) conducted research on the serial position effect. He asked participants in his study to learn a list of words, varying in length from 10 to 30 words and then asked them to recall the words. What he found was, that participants were more likely to remember words in the beginning or end of the list, but those in the middle of the list were usually forgotten. Murdock maintained that those items at the start of the list had entered the individuals’ long term memory, as they had time to...

References: Anderson, J.R. (2010). Cognitive Psychology and its Implications (7th Ed). USA. Worth Publishers
Baddeley, Alan
Eysenck, M.W. and Keane, M.T. (2010) Cognitive Psychology : a students handbook. 6th edition.
Goldstein, B. (2011). Cognitive Psychology (3rd Ed). Belmont, C.A: Wadsworth
McLeod, S
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