Pattern of Past Performance and Expected Future Performance: A Reversal of the Unexpected Primacy Effect


  • Requests for reprints should be addressed to any of the authors at Department of Psychology, U 20, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut 06268.


Stimulus students of varying race (black vs. white) and social class (lower vs. middle) were portrayed as showing either an ascending or descending pattern of past success to Introductory Psychology or Elementary Education subjects. Subjects then estimated the future success of the stimulus student. The results indicated a recency effect in expected future performance-a performer whose scores showed an ascending pattern of success was expected to outperform those exhibiting a descending pattern of success. Black students were also expected to outperform white students, but only when they had shown increasing success; for descending success patterns, race did not differentially affect expected performance estimates. Possible explanations for the recency finding were presented and focused on the phenomenal status of ability and the prescriptions accompanying the institutionalized role of teacher. Implications regarding the differential credit for success to students were discussed.