serial position effect cover photo
min. leestijd
Legal UX

Laws of UX and Legal Design: Serial Position Effect

Discover the impact of the Serial Position Effect on user experience and legal design. Learn how strategically placing information in contracts improves recall and enhances the overall experience.
Bilgehan Arifoglu

Laws of UX and Legal Design: Serial Position Effect

Welcome to the second episode of our Laws of UX series. This article will examine the Serial Position Effect and its relation to legal design.


People tend to remember the first and last clauses in a contract best.


The serial position effect, a term coined by Herman Ebbinghaus, describes how the position of an item in a sequence affects recall accuracy. The two concepts involved, the primacy effect and the recency effect, explain how items presented at the beginning of a sequence and the end of a sequence are recalled with greater accuracy than items in the middle of a list.

Manipulation of the serial position effect to create better user experiences is reflected in many popular designs by successful companies like Apple, Electronic Arts, and Nike.

Primacy and Recency Effects

This graph illustrates the tendency of a user to recall better information from the beginning and end of a list or sequence. The middle things are the most difficult to remember. Keep this in mind when you design your contract. ©

Using Serial Position Effect in Legal Design

There are some takeaways from the serial position effect. We can think about these takeaways and find a way to apply them to the legal design.

Serial position example illustration. It shows contract, provisions and call to action in sequence.
Contract, provisions and call to actions must be in sequence to represent information logically.
  • Limit the amount of recall required if it's possible. There are always some things that don't need constant recall. Placing the least essential information in the middle of the contract can be helpful because this information tends to be stored less frequently in long-term and working memory.
  • Positioning critical actions on the far left and right within elements can increase memorization.
  • Mistakenly putting these pieces of information at the start and the end of the contract might make users feel it is essential to remember and it causes them to try to fill their heads with somewhat useless information (at least doesn’t require constant recall.)

Applying memorization techniques to employment contracts

Let’s have a look how we can apply these ideas to the legal practice.

memorization techniques applied to employment contracts


Don't forget to reduce the strain on your client by understanding their short-term memory capacity. Put only relevant information on your contract, which has to be remembered at the beginning and the end of the contract.