The serial position function is a powerful and highly reliable feature of human learning, with well-described primacy and recency effects. We tested the hypothesis that frontal lobe lesions in patients would disrupt the serial position function since such patients are known to have disturbed temporal ordering, learning in the presence of interference, encoding and organizational approaches to learning. Performance was compared in patients with focal, acquired lesions of frontal and non-frontal cortices, using a standardized paradigm of verbal list learning. Results indicated a similar pattern of performance on first trial learning for the two groups. However, across learning trials, frontal lesion subjects failed to maintain significant primacy and recency effects. Non-frontal lesion subjects consistently showed the expected U-shaped serial position curve across all trials. Subjective organization in learning was particularly deficient in the dorsolateral frontal lesion subjects. We propose that serial position effects are qualitatively different after frontal lobe lesion, being transitory and prone to alteration by the cumulative effects of disturbed temporal-spatial processing across learning trials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)729-739
Number of pages11
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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