Been watching the X factor? Have you noticed that X Factor contestants are more likely to get the boot if they sing near the start of the show.
Cambridge University academics compiled data from 150 editions of the X Factor and Pop Idol to prove the theory that a contestant’s fate does not boil down to whether they can sing. This theory will more than likely not surprise any of you….but what did they find out?
In eight live X Factor shows in 2009, four singers were eliminated after being either the second or third act to perform, researchers said. When contestants sang later in the evening they were less likely to be eliminated. He added that the first singer to perform in the X Factor is not at the greatest advantage, but less likely to be eliminated than those in second or third place. Dr Lionel, who undertook the research with the University of London, said that none of the people who sang last on this year’s series of the X Factor had been eliminated.
What Dr Lionel is talking about is that fact that people tend to be biased when there is a sequence. You are influenced by the fact that you remember people depending on whether they were singing first or last. And memory can have a huge effect on how we judge a performance.
So what can we take from this research? Well, its the primacy and recency effect at work. The psychologist Murdock completed research into these effects on memory, which he called the Serial Position Curve. Or how well we remember items on a list is dependant on where they are placed on the list.
In the stage theory of memory, information goes through to our short term memory, if the information is not lost through decay or displacement then it goes into our long term memory. The short term memory is widely regarded as having a capacity of seven plus or minus two pieces of information. The size of the pieces of information is not a factor, in fact, making these pieces of information larger (or ‘chunking’ as it is known in psychology) makes us able to remember much more information. However, we are at this point talking about the positioning of information in a list. The theory behind the serial position curve is that people recall words better at the beginning or end of a wordlist. A better recall at the beginning is an example of the primacy effect whereas a better recall at the end is an example of the recency effect.
So what does this all mean to us I hear you cry?? Well, it can help us study and work better. If we remember information better at the start and end of a list then we need to make the most of this knowledge. When studying were you ever told to take regular breaks? Did you do it?
Taking regular breaks is necessary so we are not overloaded with information but it also allows the primacy and recency effect to help our memory. The more breaks, the more times the primacy and recency effect can help us remember.
Any other ways in which we can use these effects to our advantage?