Given a list of items to remember, we will tend to remember the last few
things more than those things in the middle. We also tend to assume that
items at the end of the list are of greater importance or significance.
The recency effect has most effect in repeated persuasion messages when there is a delay between the messages.
Miller and Campbell recorded proceedings from a trial with a combination of
sequences of arguments for and against the plaintiff, sometimes with delays
of a week between parts and the judgment that they sought from experimental
The results in the table below show that when there was no delay between the first and second message, but then a week's delay before the judgment, a primacy effect occurred. When there was a delay between the first and second message, but no gap between the second message and the judgment, then a recency effect occurred.
|First message||Delay after first message?||Second message||Delay after second message?||Judgment|
|For plaintiff||No||Against plaintiff||No||Balanced|
|Against plaintiff||No||For plaintiff||No||Balanced|
|For plaintiff||No||Against plaintiff||Yes||For|
|Against plaintiff||No||For plaintiff||Yes||Against|
|For plaintiff||Yes||Against plaintiff||No||Against|
|Against plaintiff||Yes||For plaintiff||No||For|
|For plaintiff||Yes||Against plaintiff||Yes||Balanced|
|Against plaintiff||Yes||For plaintiff||Yes||Balanced|
What did you do in the last hour? What about the last day? Last week? Year?
If you want something to stand out in a person’s mind, use it at the end of a conversation, a written list, etc. Don’t let it get lost in the middle. Repeat the message after a while, still with the key items at the end.
Do not just pay attention to what other people have most recently said.