What is the Effect of Primacy?

What is the Effect of Primacy?

Have you ever heard that the first impression is what counts? However exaggerated it may seem, this popular saying that highlights the importance of first impressions is based on a psychological effect that has been studied by behavioral science: primacy effect, an attention effect very taken into account in fields such as advertising. Do you want to know what it is about? Keep reading!


  • 1 What is the effect of Primacy?
  • 2 An example of the effect of primacy
  • 3 Positioning effects
  • 4 Impact of the primacy effect

What is the effect of Primacy?

The primacy effect it is a cognitive bias according to which people usually remember more and better the information that has been presented to you first, while they tend to forget the information perceived later. This would happen when, for example, when presenting a long list of words, people tend to remember the first ones better and value them more.

Some researchers attribute this effect to a longer trial time of those elements presented previously, which affects a better memorial performance. This also happens when we learn to decide based on past experiences. It seems that the first rewards we have received condition our future decisions to a greater extent than other rewards we have obtained afterwards. This phenomenon is known as "primacy of the result" and highlights how the first results we get when we perform certain acts, condition us to commit the act again to a greater or lesser extent.

An example of the effect of primacy

The effect of primacy can even condition the opinion we have of certain people or facts. In a study carried out by Solomon Asch, this effect was verified by listing a list of words with different orders describing a person.

When people were told about someone who was "envious, stubborn, hardworking and intelligent", most listeners felt a bad impression of the person they were talking about. But if the listeners heard the same words but in a different order in which the positive adjectives were placed at the beginning, that is, a person who was "intelligent, hardworking, stubborn and envious," the listeners had a good impression of the person to which he was describing.

Positioning effects

The effect of the primacy is given according to the positioning of the information, just as the recency effect does. The effect of recency is the effect just the opposite, the information we perceive as last are easier to remember than those that precede them.

It seems that the process of coding the information follows a U-shaped line that is high at the beginning, giving the known primacy effect; it descends in the intermediate part, which is when the information that is least remembered is given and goes back up in the last part, when the last information received is retained.

Impact of the primacy effect

The effect of primacy has had a great impact on the world of marketing and advertising, being a key for many publicists who find in psychology a source through which to try to understand human behavior. The qualities and processes of human attention are of great importance for any type of communication, from giving a famous speech to developing the scene of a movie. It has been shown in advertising, for example, as those commercials that start just when the broadcast of a large audience program is cut, are better served than those that remain intermediate , so the business struggle to get an ad to be the first is quite common. When you want to issue a message, understanding how human attention and memory work is very important. In the case of putting into effect the effect of primacy or of recency, we will realize that what is most important that we want to convey to an interlocutor, must be placed at the beginning or at the end of the speech for its best processing, but never in the intermediate zone

Links of interest

How does memory work? Marta Guerri // blog / how-memory-works /

Primacy Effect in Memory. //

Primacy Effect in Psychology: Definition & Overview. //