How to convey a message effectively: all about Primacy and Recency effects

9 January 2019

In any area of our society, and even more so in the workplace, knowing how to communicate effectively makes a real difference. One of the most important and at the same time most underestimated aspects is making sure that the concept behind the message, the true core of the argument, reaches the recipient (whether reader or listener) completely. However, achieving this ability is not so simple. But how can this fundamental point of view be improved?

A valuable guideline, which strangely enough not everyone knows and therefore does not implement, is the ability to position the crucial elements of the discourse within it. Over the years, the study of this operation has given rise to phenomena that can be considered as real rules, to which one must adhere and refer: the main example are the Primacy and Recency effects.

Linked to the field of memorisation, these are elements based on cognitive trend lines, which have their roots in the research of the psychologist Solomon Ash dating back to 1946. According to him, the human being, constantly bombarded by information of all kinds, tends to select and store in his memory those that first caught his attention. This assumption gave rise to theories and developments such as the phenomena of Primacy and Recency, which are mutually opposed but essentially united by the same characteristics.

Pregiudizi primacy e recency

The first, consists in the fact that when faced with a long series of elements, the passages at the beginning of the content will be the most advantageous, as they are presented when attention is at its highest. The same reasoning, but the exact opposite, is applied to the Recency effect: in addition to the initial ones, the information that remains most impressed on the user is that contained in the concluding section of a speech.

Grafico effetto primacy e recency

Therefore, in conclusion, it is really very important for a perfect communication (which is able to provide a convincing message to the intermediary) to place the core of the speech in a position where it can be better memorised: at the beginning or at the end of the sentence; not in the middle section of the sentence, which is more dispersed and generally receives less attention. A fundamental technique for effective communication, which can really make a difference, but still too much underestimated or unknown.