Mental Models: Serial Position Effect


How might this apply to great teams and cultures?

Ever had a manager that made decisions based on the last meeting they had? We need to make data-driven decisions, but common cognitive biases can skew how the information is interpreted. Letting the numbers speak for themselves is an alluring aspect of analytics, but the reality is that human bias can creep into the process if practitioners aren't vigilant.

How might this apply to your business?

E-commerce websites position products on a product page carefully as well, showing the products that they would most like to sell near the beginning. In online marketing, links presented at the top of email newsletters or on a search engine results page receive many more clicks.

Similarly, links at the beginning and end of a navigation menu on a website will also receive more clicks. Off-line marketing also employs the same principles: Restaurant menus are carefully designed with the serial position effect in mind, and when watching television, consumers are more likely to remember the first and last commercials seen during a commercial break.


This doesn't just happen with business strategy, e-commerce, or marketing metrics. Think of the impact of giving performance reviews, for example. Do people really remember ALL the data they heard or the first or last thing they were told?

See Also

Peak-End Rule, Chunking


In the whirl of our day-to-day interactions, it’s all too easy to forget the nuances that distinguish great teams, great cultures, and great products/services.

Mental Model Flash Cards bring together insights from psychology into an easy reference and brainstorming tool. Each card describes one insight into human behavior and suggests ways to apply this to your teams as well as the design of your products and services.