People tend to recall items or events in the order in which they occurred. This is called serial recall and can be used to help cue memories. By thinking about a string of events or even words, it is possible to use a previous memory to cue the next item in the series. Serial recall helps a person to remember the order of events in his or her life. These memories appear to exist on a continuum on which more recent events are more easily recalled.
When recalling serial items presented as a list (a common occurrence in memory studies), two effects tend to surface: the primacy effect and the recency effect. The primacy effect occurs when a participant remembers words from the beginning of a list better than the words from the middle or end. The theory behind this is that the participant has had more time to rehearse these words in working memory. The recency effect occurs when a participant remembers words from the end of a list more easily, possibly since they are still available in short-term memory.