Review effect: what it is and how it affects memory

Consider a presentation on psychology, for example. When you leave the presentation, what do you think you will remember best, the information from the beginning, the middle or the end?

Well oddly enough, and if the presentation is not very long, you will remember the initial information and the final information better. In this article we will talk about the latter case, the so-called revision effect.

    Review effect: what is it?

    As we saw in the example, when we are exposed to a certain amount of information, our ability to pay attention and remember it is higher at the beginning; it breaks down in half and grows back at the end.

    The revision effect occurs when the information provided at the end is what we remember best. It refers to short term memory. However, when the information that is best remembered is the one that started from the beginning, then we speak of the primacy effect.

    Word lists

    But the recency effect appears in other paradigms or situations, and in fact, when short-term memory began to be studied, experiments were used from the technique of serial learning (e.g. , remember word lists). Thanks to this test, it was verified that the probability of remembering an item varied depending on its position in the list.

    The review effect refers to the fact that the last items in the list are better remembered compared to items in the initial positions (i.e. the first items heard or read in the test; the so-called primacy effect ).

    Using lists and the technique of free recording (where the subject is asked what words he remembers), the journal effect was discovered.

      daily life

      However, and as we saw at the beginning of the article, the review effect can be extrapolated to other everyday life situations, which involve “remembering” certain information. In other words, it is a broader concept than just “remembering the last items in a list” (although it also includes the latter).

      Thus, according to this principle, the things learned or heard most recently are memorized better and better. Conversely, the more time elapses between the information heard (or seen, read, etc.) and the evocation of this information (asking the subject to evoke it), the more difficult it will be. In other words, you will be less likely to remember this information.

      For example, if a student is asked about a topic on the same afternoon he or she finishes studying it, he or she will be much more likely to remember the topic and be able to explain it, than if we did. ask the next day. morning or afternoon.

      Another example is that it’s easier to remember a phone number dialed a few minutes ago than a number we dialed the day before. These are examples that illustrate the effect of the review.

      academic field

      In this way we see how the latest information we acquire is usually more memorable for us, we remember it better. On the other hand, we know that frequently reviewing the information, as well as the use of summaries, allows the material or the information to be fixed in the mind, and therefore to bring up the information more easily when asked. (for better remembering).

      We can apply the revision effect in the academic and learning field; for example, determining the temporal sequence of courses, lessons or subjects to be taught, depending on their importance during the school year.


      The phenomenon of the recency effect, as well as the primacy effect also discussed, have been interpreted according to the multistage model of Atkinson and Shiffrin (1968). According to this model, these effects reflect the operations of two independent memory systems: short-term memory (in the case of the recency effect) and long-term memory (primacy effect).

      Indeed, if we think of a list of “X” words which read us (for example 10) and which we must remember, by asking it, it happens that:

      1. Effects of primacy

      Let’s remember the first words of the list better (This is due to long-term memory, as it has been several seconds, or even minutes, since we heard the words).

      2. Examination effect

      We also better remember the last words of the list (Due to short term memory, as it includes a few seconds between when the words were heard and when we were asked about them).


      In some pathological populations, it has been found that the recency effect (in serial learning tasks) is more prominent than the primacy effect. These populations were people with amnesia of various etiologies and in people with dementia Type of Alzheimer’s.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Garzon, A. and Seoane J. (1982). Memory resulting from information processing.
      • De Vega, M. (1990). Introduction to cognitive psychology. Psychology Alliance. Madrid.
      • Martin, ME et al. (2013). Relevance of the effect of the serial position on the differential diagnosis between mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer-type dementia and normal aging. ScienceDirect, Neurology, 28 (4), 219-225.

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