Serial Position Effect

Users have a propensity to best remember the first and last items in a series.

Key Takeaways

Placing the least important items in the middle of lists can be helpful because these items tend to be stored less frequently in long-term and working memory.

 

Positioning key actions on the far left and right within elements such as navigation can increase memorisation.

Origins

The serial position effect, a term coined by Herman Ebbinghaus, describes how the position of an item in a sequence affects recall accuracy. The two concepts involved, the primacy effect and the recency effect, explains how items presented at the beginning of a sequence and the end of a sequence are recalled with greater accuracy than items in the middle of a list. Manipulation of the serial position effect to create better user experiences is reflected in many popular designs by successful companies like Apple, Electronic Arts, and Nike.

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