When you are trying to persuade someone to accept your point of view, where you position certain information in a message sometimes can make a difference.

Let’s say you have two ideas for solving a problem, A and B, and you want the reader will choose B. Should you place it first or second? Many people will say position it second because people remember the last thing they read or heard. However, that’s only true in limited situations, according to social psychologists who have tested people’s memories under different conditions.

Most of the time, if you are presenting two or three ideas and you want to steer the reader toward one of them, position it first.

Two psychologists, Robert Petty (Ohio State) and John Cacioppo (University of Chicago), developed a well-known theory based on their research into how messages affect an audience. They found that if an audience is interested in the issue, they will pay careful attention to information early in the message. They will study the information, analyze the argument, and form an opinion based on it. They tend to pay less attention to information that follows. People who are only casually interested are usually not paying close attention early in the message.

So if “B” is your preferred option, make a strong case for it early, and put your less-attractive option second. If you have three ideas, position the weakest idea in the middle, because people are more likely to forget information in the middle than information positioned elsewhere.