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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Order effects in choice are selectively modulated by cognitive load


The order in which options are presented influences choice in ways that parallel primacy and recency effects in memory, but the depth of this connection remains underexplored. I present sequences of art to experimental participants who select their favorite pieces, and find evidence that cognitive load can selectively weaken choice primacy or recency depending on its timing, analogous to established findings in memory research. The data suggests that primacy is reduced by an externally-imposed distractor task in between each option or by natural fatigue, while recency is reduced by an extra delay containing a distractor after the last option is presented. Thus, order effects in choice may be predictably modulated by the targeted disruption of processing.

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