Serial position effects in recall of television commercials

J Gen Psychol. 2005 Apr;132(2):151-63. doi: 10.3200/GENP.132.2.151-164.


Does the position of a television commercial in a block of commercials determine how well it will be recalled? The findings of naturalistic studies can be affected by uncontrolled presentation, viewing, and retention variables. In the present article, college students viewed lists of 15 commercials in a laboratory simulation and recalled the product brand names. In an immediate test, the first commercials in a list were well recalled (a primacy effect), as were the last items (a recency effect), in comparison with the recall of middle items. In an end-of-session test, the primacy effect persisted, but the recency effect disappeared. Embedding lists within a television program again produced better recall of the first items during end-of-session tests of recall and recognition. These results offered convergent validity for the naturalistic studies of commercial memory, and they supported the usefulness of combining laboratory and field methods to answer questions about everyday memory.

MeSH terms

  • Advertising*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory
  • Mental Recall*
  • Television*