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Serial Position Effect Analytical Essay



Serial Position Effect describes a situation where the ability to recall items in a list varies as the position of an item on the list changes. It states that items at the start of the list and at the end have a higher chance of been remembered as opposed to items in the middle. Primacy Effect is the tendency to remember an item in the beginning of serialized items.

On the other hand, the ability to recall items at the end of a list is called Recency Effect. Reasons have been developed to explain this phenomenon. However, the earliest reason for Primacy Effect is long-term memory while the reason for Recency Effect is immediate memory (Neely & LeCompte, 1999).

This paper looks into a more detailed look into Serial Position Effect through an analysis of an article that discusses similarity of semantic similarity to irrelevant speech effect (Neely & LeCompte, 1999).

Research Findings

Previous research has found that irrelevant speech has the capacity to disrupt immediate recall of short lists. When the lists to be recalled have a semantic resemblance to the speech, there is significantly little effect in the ability to recall according to Neely & LeCompte (1999).

Hence, it has an insignificant effect to the Serial Position Effect theory. However, many researchers have delved into this matter with great interest. That is the bedrock for the research conducted by Neely and LeCompte (1999). The researchers carried out one experiment.

In experiment one, the researchers ensured that they conduct a series of trials in front of their academic peers who had previously shown interest in this field. The research was designed to remedy previous researches’ perceived weaknesses.

The weaknesses were mainly in less participation and the assemblage of the stimuli. A stimulus refers to the items on the list. The researchers perceived that there was a minimal number of participants in the previous studies and that the stimuli did not adequately capture the extensiveness of a list (Neely & LeCompte, 1999).

The experiment findings showed that indeed there was a significant increase in the irrelevant speech when the items to be remembered were semantically similar to the lists that participants were to remember. This was because of the serial recall capacity brought about by Serial position effect.

This theory’s placement hypothesis shows that an items position matters when asked to recall. In this experiment, the researchers used semantically disruptive words. Hence, the participants found it hard to form a mental pattern in their recall (Neely & LeCompte, 1999).

This was designed to discredit further the fact that items in a particular list may form a pattern that participants find easy to memorize. However, this was further discredited when studies that are more current showed that Serial Position Effect was not only in semantics but also in visuals (Neely & LeCompte, 1999).

In relation to irrelevant speech, Serial Position Effect may not be affected. This is because, as original explanations put it, Serial Position Effect is because of long term and virtual memories. Hence, it is possible that the new lists that effectively reduced formations of a pattern did not affect participants in this study.

Serial Position Effect is strengthened by these research findings because it effectively follows that ability to recall rests in the Recency and Primacy effects developed. It also discredits possibility of irrelevant speech affecting Serial Position Effect (Neely & LeCompte, 1999).

Real Life Example

In real life, Serial Position Effect is quite possible. It is easier to remember items in the beginning and end of a list. However, this may be because of the emphasis that individuals place on these two places. In games, in school and all competitions, persons at the beginning of a list are lauded and those in the end perceived weakly (Neely & LeCompte, 1999).

In the English Premier League, it is always quite easy to remember the first teams. Additionally, it is easier to recall teams at the end. While teams that win this competition win the English Premier League trophy, teams that eventually finish at the tail end are punished by relegations.

Hence, it is actually a real life thing to engage those two places in a list. The majority of the teams that lie in the middle do not get any limelight. This is because their position is perceivably irrelevant according to Neely & LeCompte (1999).


Neely, C.B. & LeCompte, C.D. (1999). . Memory and Cognition, 27(1): 37-44. Web.

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"Serial Position Effect." IvyPanda, 21 May 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/serial-position-effect/.

1. IvyPanda. "Serial Position Effect." May 21, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/serial-position-effect/.


IvyPanda. "Serial Position Effect." May 21, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/serial-position-effect/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "Serial Position Effect." May 21, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/serial-position-effect/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Serial Position Effect'. 21 May.

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