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First impressions are lasting impressions: A primacy effect in memory for repetitions


Two experiments demonstrated that the encoding of a repeated object is biased toward the attributes of its first presentation. In Experiment 1, subjects saw objects five times each, but either the first presentation or the fifth presentation was the mirror reverse of the standard orientation seen on the other four trials. When recognition was tested with both orientations simultaneously, subjects reported seeing only the single mirror-reverse orientation more often if it was the first presentation than when it was the fifth presentation, and seeing only the standard orientation more often if it was presentations 1–4 than when it was presentations 2–5. A second experiment demonstrated that this primacy effect generalized to size changes. This pattern of results is consistent with the hypothesis that top-down biases affect what subjects learn: The first representation established for a stimulus is likely to influence the encoding of subsequent repetitions.


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Correspondence to Gregory J. Digirolamo.

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This research was supported by the James S. McDonnell Foundation and Pew Memorial Trusts through the support of the Center for the Cognitive Neuroscience of Attention, and National Science Foundation Grant SBR-93-19265 to D. L. Hintzman. We thank Michael Posner, John Gardiner, Art Glenberg, William Johnston, and Roddy Roediger for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.

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Digirolamo, G.J., Hintzman, D.L. First impressions are lasting impressions: A primacy effect in memory for repetitions. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 4, 121–124 (1997).

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  • Recognition Memory
  • Study List
  • Adaptive Resonance Theory
  • List Position
  • Standard Orientation