Recency Effect definition

Recency Effect is a cognitive bias which explains the way in which we always remember first the most recent pieces of information we’ve taken in. Of course, information that we read or heard last will be most freshly inscribed on our short-term memories and so come back to us more quickly when we’re trying to remember. For example, if you ask someone to complete a list of tasks for you, they’re more likely to remember and be able to complete well the last thing on your list than those that came at the beginning or in the middle.

We also give immediate significance to the most recent pieces of information, subconsciously preferring them over anything that came before, which explains our relationship with “novelty” items. The result of this is the Novelty Effect: the way that anything new has a short-term advantage over more established things because of the very fact that we lend precedence to something simply because it is new and different. Looking at this in terms of a website perhaps, if a new function/page/tab is created, visitors are more likely to click on it or interact with it as required - and also to view it in a favourable light - simply due to the fact that it is new and is therefore inciting the “Novelty Effect”.

Many marketing strategies play up to this by updating their products regularly in order to benefit from the Recency and Novelty effects on a constant basis, one prime example being the way that Apple releases new iPhones on a regular basis, being fully aware that – even if the new model doesn’t include many different features – it will generate excitement simply because of the fact that it is new.

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