What Do the Terms "primacy" and "recency" Mean in Psychology?

The terms "primacy" and "recency" in the field of psychology concern the brain's memory when remembering the first and last items in a list or sequence. The primacy effect refers to remembering the first item in a list, and the recency effect refers to recalling of the last item in a list.

Studies show that the brain tends to store the first item in a list in long-term memory while short-term memory holds the last item in a list. Items in the middle of a list are either booted out in short term memory by newer items or were not there long enough for long-term memory to capture it. This process of primacy and recency has been dubbed the "serial position effect." When people recall information, it is believed that they are gathering information from two separate stores in the brain, which are commonly known as short- and long-term memories. When mapped out, the recency and primacy effects are the high points on a inverted bell curve. Primacy and recency are also part of the multi-store model presented in 1968 by Richard Atkinson and Richard Shiffrin. Their model suggests that a person's memory is composed of a series of stores.