Start the 2nd session of a course or meeting with a Primacy – Recency activity.

One highly useful psychological technique that both trainers and managers should remember & use much more is that of the Primacy – Recency Effect.

What is the Primacy – Recency Effect?
The term Primacy & Recency Effects are used in psychology & sociology to describe the effect of the order of presentation of information or events on memory.

The Primacy Effect results in information presented at the beginning being better remembered than information presented later on and that people tend to remember the first time more than the repetitions.

The Recency Effect results in better recall of the most recent information or event.

Together, these two effects result in the earliest and latest information in any Communicative Activity (Presentations, Meetings, Negotiations, etc)  being remember better, with information given in the middle generally being least remembered.

Using the primacy /recency effect on the second / subsequent sessions of a course or meeting.

What you are doing is using the primacy / recency effect to lead the learners into reviewing what was important for THEM in the previous day’s learning, NOT what you wanted to teach them.

There is a huge difference in these concepts. What is important is what the audience have gained from the previous session. Everyone learns different things, in different ways, at different speeds, so we should never assume that once we have taught something to the group, everyone has learned it. If you have ever studied a foreign language, you will probably understand this concept!

The steps to follow in a Primary / Recency session  are:

1. Tell them that they are going to do a primacy / recency exercise. Do NOT explain further!

2. Tell them to write down 3-5 things that were important for THEM from all of the previous day’s material. Tell them that they may consult the training manual if necessary. Give them 5 minutes to complete the task.

3. Select each trainee, but NOT in turn, to read out their comments and write them all on a flipchart. We recommend starting with the most junior member of the group and work your way up to the “power” in the group.

4. Once all of the participants have given their feedback, the activity is almost finished.

5. The last step is to review what the majority have “learned” in a short feedback session. This will tell you, the trainer, what might need to be revised later on in the course.

The Primacy / Recency effect can also be used in Negotiations: At the start of each session, ask the other negotiator(s) to tell you what agreements had been reached in the previous session, what was pending to discuss and for their overall impression of how the session had gone & how it could be improved. This allows you to check for misunderstandings, errors, etc., and also improve, even more, the negotiation environment.

NOTE: Use the information obtained to evaluate the need for a change in material, methodology, activities, etc., in future activities.

Remember: NEVER assume that something has been learned just because you have “covered it” during the course.

(c) Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates S.L., Madrid,  September, 2012


About ianbrownlee

Ian Brownlee, the founder of Brownlee & Associates has been actively involved in the field of interpersonal & transcultural communication since 1977. He has worked in universities and companies in the following countries: Laos, Thailand, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, France, Italy, England, The United States of America & Spain, as a teacher, university lecturer, trainer, researcher & consultant. In addition, his experience in living in these countries, and studying the language & communication and interaction styles of each has aided him in reaching a real understanding of intercultural and transcultural differences and how to resolve them. Ian Brownlee has various masters degrees from British Universities: One in Linguistics & Teaching English Overseas from Manchester University, one in Training & Development with a specialization in the area of Communication and Adult learning awarded by the University of Sheffield. He has also gained professional qualifications in Psychotherapy & Hypnotherapy from various professional organizations. During his university career he has also studied elements of Sociology, Organizational psychology, Educational psychology, Psycholinguistics and Kinesics. He is a licensed Practitioner, Master Practitioner, and Master Trainer in NLP. as well as being a trainer in Ericksonian Hypnosis. He is a member of a wide range of professional organizations involved in Training, Applied Psychology, Hypnotherapy & Ericksonian Hypnosis, Psychotherapy, Interpersonal Communication & Cross-cultural Communication. He is also recognized by the Program on Negotiation, Harvard University, as a Negotiation Skills Trainer & Mediator and has been a collaborator on various projects with the program, and as such is in great demand as a negotiation consultant for some of the largest multinationals operating worldwide. His wide experience gained in multinational organizations in positions such as Director of Training, Communications Consultant and Negotiator / Mediator has helped many people to learn and apply new methods of negotiating skills and advanced communication techniques both in their private and professional lives. He has published various articles & books related to the field of interpersonal communication and he is the author of all the courses taught by Brownlee & Associates. He has lived and worked in Spain since 1985, initially as a trainer / Special Assistant in a multinational pharmaceutical company and then as the Training Manager for a multinational company involved in Clinical Analysis & Nuclear Medicine. Brownlee & Associates was formed in 1991 and currently has a small, highly-trained staff. While based in Madrid, courses are given world-wide either in English or Spanish. Brownlee & Associates currently work with leading international companies in the areas of pharmaceuticals , Information systems, luxury products, food & beverages, etc.
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