Critical Thinking

Cognitive Bias: Recency Effect


Availability often combines to our detriment to the recency effect. The recency effect dictates that we give greater importance to memories and experiences that have happened recently over past experiences and memories from further in the past.

You can see this often when couples fight. A typical example would be, one party is supportive and helpful for the majority of the relationship, but for the past month or so, has been slightly judgemental and not as helpful as normal.

The other person will judge their recent actions as being more prolific and common than they actually are. Saying things such as “you always do x” or “you never do y” – even if it’s clear that the person has a history of doing it, just not recently.

The strength of the memory, recent or otherwise also plays a huge part. If one memory is only visual, but another is rich and detailed with memories of sounds, smells and feelings, this memory will mentally be given a higher status.

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