Introduction to Introductions

A graph demonstrating the serial position effect. The Y axis is percentage of words recalled, the X axis is position in sequence: primacy, intermediate, and recency. The number of words recalled begins around 90%, drops down below 50% in the intermediate position, and returns to 90% in the recency part of the sequence

A graph demonstrating the serial-position effect. More words are remembered from the beginning and end of the series than the middle.

The human mind has a tendency to focus on the first and last things in a series. Social scientists call this the serial-position effect, a combination of the primacy effect (remembering the first thing one hears) and the recency effect (remembering the last thing one hears).[1][2]

In practical terms, the serial-position effect means that you should always try to go first or last at auditions and interviews. More importantly for our purposes, it means that introductions and conclusions are extremely important.

In this section, we’ll explore ways to start your speech that both grab your listeners’ attention and help them understand what they’re about to hear.

  1. The term "serial-position effect" was coined by Hermann Ebbinghaus in On Memory: A Contribution to Experimental Psychology. Teachers college, Columbia University, 1913
  2. Sousa, David A. How the Brain Learns. SAGE Publications, 2011, 95–97.