Ken Larsen's web site - Memory Tips/Biases


Below is a table of memory biases that I culled from this list of psychology terms

I've ordered them top-to-bottom by what I regard as their importance:





Bizarreness effect

Bizarre material is better remembered than common material.


Lag effect

The phenomenon whereby learning is greater when studying is spread out over time, as opposed to studying the same amount of time in a single session. See also spacing effect.


Generation effect (Self-generation effect)

That self-generated information is remembered best. For instance, people are better able to recall memories of statements that they have generated than similar statements generated by others.


Picture superiority effect

The notion that concepts that are learned by viewing pictures are more easily and frequently recalled than are concepts that are learned by viewing their written word form counterparts.


Humor effect

That humorous items are more easily remembered than non-humorous ones, which might be explained by the distinctiveness of humor, the increased cognitive processing time to understand the humor, or the emotional arousal caused by the humor.


Fading affect bias

A bias in which the emotion associated with unpleasant memories fades more quickly than the emotion associated with positive events.


Spacing effect

That information is better recalled if exposure to it is repeated over a long span of time rather than a short one.


von Restorff effect

That an item that sticks out is more likely to be remembered than other items.


Processing difficulty effect

That information that takes longer to read and is thought about more (processed with more difficulty) is more easily remembered.


Verbatim effect

That the "gist" of what someone has said is better remembered than the verbatim wording. This is because memories are representations, not exact copies.


Testing effect

The fact that you more easily remember information you have read by rewriting it instead of rereading it.


Conservatism or Regressive bias

Tendency to remember high values and high likelihoods/probabilities/frequencies as lower than they actually were and low ones as higher than they actually were. Based on the evidence, memories are not extreme enough.


Mood-congruent memory bias

The improved recall of information congruent with one's current mood.


Leveling and sharpening

Memory distortions introduced by the loss of details in a recollection over time, often concurrent with sharpening or selective recollection of certain details that take on exaggerated significance in relation to the details or aspects of the experience lost through leveling. Both biases may be reinforced over time, and by repeated recollection or re-telling of a memory.


Stereotypical bias

Memory distorted towards stereotypes (e.g., racial or gender).


Self-relevance effect

That memories relating to the self are better recalled than similar information relating to others.


Positivity effect (Socioemotional selectivity theory)

That older adults favor positive over negative information in their memories.


Google effect

The tendency to forget information that can be found readily online by using Internet search engines.


Levels-of-processing effect

That different methods of encoding information into memory have different levels of effectiveness.


Primacy effectrecency effect & serial position effect

That items near the end of a sequence are the easiest to recall, followed by the items at the beginning of a sequence; items in the middle are the least likely to be remembered.


List-length effect

A smaller percentage of items are remembered in a longer list, but as the length of the list increases, the absolute number of items remembered increases as well. For example, consider a list of 30 items ("L30") and a list of 100 items ("L100"). An individual may remember 15 items from L30, or 50%, whereas the individual may remember 40 items from L100, or 40%. Although the percent of L30 items remembered (50%) is greater than the percent of L100 (40%), more L100 items (40) are remembered than L30 items (15).


Modality effect

That memory recall is higher for the last items of a list when the list items were received via speech than when they were received through writing.


Next-in-line effect

When taking turns speaking in a group using a predetermined order (e.g. going clockwise around a room, taking numbers, etc.) people tend to have diminished recall for the words of the person who spoke immediately before them.


Misinformation effect

Memory becoming less accurate because of interference from post-event information.



A form of misattribution where ideas suggested by a questioner are mistaken for memory.


Zeigarnik effect

That uncompleted or interrupted tasks are remembered better than completed ones.



When time perceived by the individual either lengthens, making events appear to slow down, or contracts.


Part-list cueing effect

That being shown some items from a list and later retrieving one item causes it to become harder to retrieve the other items.


Spotlight effect

The tendency to overestimate the amount that other people notice your appearance or behavior.


Peak-end rule

That people seem to perceive not the sum of an experience but the average of how it was at its peak (e.g., pleasant or unpleasant) and how it ended.


Telescoping effect

The tendency to displace recent events backward in time and remote events forward in time, so that recent events appear more remote, and remote events, more recent.


Tip of the tongue phenomenon

When a subject is able to recall parts of an item, or related information, but is frustratingly unable to recall the whole item. This is thought to be an instance of "blocking" where multiple similar memories are being recalled and interfere with each other.


Consistency bias

Incorrectly remembering one's past attitudes and behavior as resembling present attitudes and behavior.


Source confusion

Confusing episodic memories with other information, creating distorted memories.


Suffix effect

Diminishment of the recency effect because a sound item is appended to the list that the subject is not required to recall.


Travis Syndrome

Overestimating the significance of the present. It is related to chronological snobbery with possibly an appeal to novelty logical fallacy being part of the bias.


Context effect

That cognition and memory are dependent on context, such that out-of-context memories are more difficult to retrieve than in-context memories (e.g., recall time and accuracy for a work-related memory will be lower at home, and vice versa).


Reminiscence bump

The recalling of more personal events from adolescence and early adulthood than personal events from other lifetime periods.



A form of misattribution where a memory is mistaken for imagination, because there is no subjective experience of it being a memory


Egocentric bias

Recalling the past in a self-serving manner, e.g., remembering one's exam grades as being better than they were, or remembering a caught fish as bigger than it really was.


Cross-race effect

The tendency for people of one race to have difficulty identifying members of a race other than their own.


False memory

A form of misattribution where imagination is mistaken for a memory.


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