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Serial Position Effect

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Synonyms

Serial position curve

Definition

The serial position effect refers to the finding that, on list-learning tasks, the probability of retrieving an item is dependent on the item’s position in the study list. That is, items are more likely to be retrieved if they were initially presented at the beginning (i.e., the primacy effect) or the end of the list (i.e., the recency effect), relative to items presented in the middle. For example, immediately after presentation of a nine-item word list, individuals with normal memory ability might recall about 70% of the first three words, 60% of the last three words, but only 40% of the middle three words. This effect is illustrated by the serial position curve (Fig. 1). In addition to accuracy of retrieval, the serial position effect is also reflected in speed of retrieval: response times are faster when recognizing items presented at the beginning or the end of a list relative to items presented in the middle of the list.

Serial Position...

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Serial Position Effect. Figure 1

References and Readings

  • Gazzaniga, M. S., Ivry, R. B., & Mangun, G. R. (2002). Cognitive neuroscience: The biology of the mind. New York: Norton.

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  • Tulving, E., & Craik, F. I. M. (Eds.). (2000). The Oxford handbook of memory. New York: Oxford University Press.

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© 2011 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC

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Troyer, A.K. (2011). Serial Position Effect. In: Kreutzer, J.S., DeLuca, J., Caplan, B. (eds) Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology. Springer, New York, NY. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-0-387-79948-3_2232

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