Echoes of the past: Order effects in choice and memory


The order in which options are presented influences choice in ways that parallel primacy and recency effects in memory, but the depth of this connection remains underexplored. I present sequences of art to experimental participants who select their favorite pieces, and show that cognitive load can selectively weaken choice primacy or recency depending on its timing, analogous to past findings in memory research. Primacy is reduced by an externally-imposed distractor task in between each option, or by natural fatigue, while recency is reduced by an extra delay containing a distractor after the last option is presented. Thus effective interventions to reduce choice biases may be built upon the disruption of memory encoding and consolidation. However, the distractors affect stimulus recognition memory in the opposite way as choice, consistent with theories suggesting that value processing and memory encoding can interact competitively.
Last updated on 01/20/2018