The primacy model: a new model of immediate serial recall

Psychol Rev. 1998 Oct;105(4):761-81. doi: 10.1037/0033-295x.105.4.761-781.


A new model of immediate serial recall is presented: the primacy model. The primacy model stores order information by means of the assumption that the strength of activation of successive list items decreases across list position to form a primacy gradient. Ordered recall is supported by a repeated cycle of operations involving a noisy choice of the most active item followed by suppression of the chosen item. Word-length and list-length effects are attributed to a decay process that occurs both during input, when effective rehearsal is prevented, and during output. The phonological similarity effect is attributed to a second stage of processing at which phonological confusions occur. The primacy model produces accurate simulations of the effects of word length, list length, and phonological similarity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Models, Theoretical*