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Now or Later: The "Recency/Primary" Effect

Source Institutions

    University of Washington

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Now or Later: The "Recency/Primary" Effect

In this activity (18th on the page), learners conduct an experiment to examine memory. Learners will discover that there are two types of memory processes: the recency effect (short-term memory) and the primacy effect (long-term effect). Learners will analyze others' ability to remember words in a set by calculating the recall rate for each word and plotting this data on a graph to find a serial-position curve.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per student

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per student)

  • 5 or more subjects
  • List of 20 words
  • Paper and pencil(s)
  • Calculator (optional)
  • Graph paper (optional)


  • Life Sciences
    • Human Body
      • The Brain and Nervous System
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
      • Data Representation
    • Measurement
      • Rate
    • Number and Operations
    • Problem Solving
    • Reasoning and Proof
    • Representation
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Chudler, Ph.D., Eric H.


  • All Rights Reserved, Eric H. Chudler, ©2010


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