Evaluating the Primacy Effect

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Updated on Mar 18, 2013

Grade Level: 9th to 12th; Type: Social Science


This experiment will investigate whether the primacy effect is observed more frequently in specific populations of people.


Given a list of items to remember, people tend to remember the first few things more than those in the middle. This is called the primacy effect. In this experiment, you will evaluate which groups of people are most likely to display the primacy effect.

Research Questions

  • Is the primacy effect more prevalent in older or younger adults?
  • Is the primacy effect observed more often in males or females?

Terms to Know

  • Primacy effect


  • Test subjects
  • Computer
  • Stop watch
  • Printer
  • Paper
  • Pens
  • Notebook for recording results

Experimental Procedure

  1. Recruit approximately forty participants. You will need twenty young adults (18-30) and twenty older adults (55-70). Include an equal number of men and women in each group.
  2. Compose a list of fifteen different everyday items.
  3. Read the list aloud to your test subjects.
  4. After ten minutes, ask the test subjects to write down all of the items that they can remember from the list.
  5. Ask test subjects to record their gender and age on their list of remembered items, and collect the papers for analysis.
  6. Do you observe the primacy effect in your test subjects’ responses? What percentage of test subjects remembered the first three items that were read? What percentage of test subjects remembered items eight, nine and ten? Compare the test results between younger and older adults. Is the primacy effect more prevalent in one of these groups? Compare the test results between males and females. Does the primacy effect occur more often in one gender compared to the other?


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