What is the Recency Effect?
The “recency effect” is the phenomenon that when people try to recall items on a list, they are more likely to recall the items at the end of the list. You may have heard about this effect before, but have you ever considered how it might affect your stakeholder engagements?
Factors Affecting the Recency Effect
Several factors impact this phenomenon, including:
- How the information is presented and processed
- The time between the presentation and rehearsal of the information and recall, and
- The presence of intervening tasks
If a long period of time lapses between the presentation and rehearsal of the information, there is a dramatic reduction in the recency effect. This is one of the reasons why Impetus believes in the importance of frequent and regular touchpoints. When it comes to education, one study showed that participants tend to remember only 24% of newly learned information after 31 days if no revision or repeat learning takes place. Frequent but short medical education or advisory board touchpoints are therefore ideal when it comes to taking advantage of the recency effect. In other words, this gives time for the learned material to be processed and indexed from short-term to long-term memory and prevents the participant from forgetting the presented information.
Further, in in-person meetings, the recency effect is easily reduced by interference. When presenting a lot of information on multiple topics at a time, research has found that this will eliminate this effect when trying to recall the original information. Conversely, in asynchronous touchpoints, interference is minimal and there is an opportunity to go back and review information as needed.
Repetition is Key
Leveraging the recency effect, Shail (2019) suggested the following blueprint for strong memory:
Direct learning stimuli –> time to form memory in the short term –> recall to strengthen connections –> time to move memory to long-term –> recall to strengthen long-term connections.
In other words, when it comes to learning and remembering information, repetition is key.
Cherry, K. (2019). What Is the Recency Effect? VeryWellMind. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/the-recency-effect-4685058
Shail M.S. (2019) Using Micro-learning on Mobile Applications to Increase Knowledge Retention and Work Performance: A Review of Literature. Cureus, 11(8), e5307.