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The Serial Position Effect On Word Recall

1761 words - 7 pages

The serial position effect has been studied extensively for many years. Researchers have designed a variety of different studies in order to analyze and explain both, the primacy and the recency effect. The primacy effect is the tendency for the first items presented in a series of words to be recalled more easily, or to be more influential than those presented at the end of the list. On the other end, there is also the recency effect. The recency effect is the tendency to recall the items located at the end of the list. Many studies have been designed to analyze how the primacy effect works and its accuracy. For instance, research compared the primacy and the recency effect (Jahnke, 1965). Forty-eight college students read lists of 6, 10, and 15 English words in a counterbalanced order. Twenty-four of the students were given instructions for the immediate serial recall of the list; while the other half of students were not aware that they would need to recall words from a list. Both groups received a total of 12 different lists. The words were read at a rate of one word per sec without any emphasis on specific word. In addition to that, the participants’ responses were recorded in an interval of 30 seconds. Results showed that the recency effect is stronger for free serial recall and for a longer interval than primacy effect (Jahnke, 1965). When instructions were given for a serial recall, primacy effects were stronger and recency effect weaker than when instructions were given for free recall. As the length of lists increased, the recency effect became stronger and more accurate.
Murdock (1962) conducted another experiment in order to analyze free recall. Six groups of participants had different combinations of list lengths and presentations rate. These combinations were 10-2, 20-1, 15-2, 30-1, 20-2, and 40-1 and a curve was made within those numbers; the first number indicates the number of words in a list and the second number indicates the presentation time, in seconds, per item. Each group received 80 different lists. The research hypothesis was that groups with the same total presentation time would not differ significantly in the mean number of words recalled. After the lists were presented, the participants had to write as many words as they could recall in any order. Researchers were trying to find evidence of practice effects on the four sessions. There was significant improvement over the four sessions for groups 10-2, 15-2, and 20-2. The effect was significant at only the 0.05 level for group 30-1 and not significant for groups 20-1 and 40-1. There were no significant differences found between groups 10-2 and 20-1, between groups 15-2 and 30-1, or groups 20-2 and 40-1. Furthermore, it was concluded that, under the conditions presented in the experiment, the curve is characterized by a possible exponential primacy effect extending over the first three or four words in the list (Murdock, 1962).
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