Retroactive Interference (An Update)

Retroactive Interference

The human brain resembles a book with a plentiful number of pages and an ever increasing number of pages are included each and every day since we are continually bombarded with a lot of data. What we hold from this data is really the memory we hold in our brain. We sometimes feel that there is an interference going on when we need to recall or review old memories. This interference happens because of the information we have learned recently or it can happen because the information we learned recently gets mixed with the information we have learned before that. So in this article we will discuss the interference theory and retroactive interference in detail. 

Retroactive Interference (An Update)

Interference theory

Since the first study of forgetting conducted by German Psychologist H. Ebbinghaus in the late nineteenth century, further research on the forgetting was seen as steep. While a number of factors influence the forgetting process, the main underlying cause of forgetting was found to be interference. Interference is a phenomenon of the memory process in which some recollections interfere with the recall of other recollections. 

Interference theory refers to the interaction between recently learned information and previously learned information or behaviors that cause interruption in recall of the memory. In light of the disturbance caused in efforts to recall new or past information, there are two types of interference: 

  1. Proactive Interference

Proactive interference is a type of interference in which the past memories disturb or limit the ability to learn or remember new data. Proactive interference happens when old recollections keep down a person from holding new recollections. Furthermore, this is normal to the point that everybody has experienced proactive interference. For example, a girl who after getting married changes her surname, then she sometimes tends to say her previous surname, when we are attempting to learn the same types of subjects, , learning languages or attempting to recall two contact numbers, recipes of same types of deserts, etc.

  1. Retroactive Interference

The Retroactive Interference is a type of interference where new memories control the ability to recall old data. Information that is latest and new is not difficult to remember but the past memories become difficult to recall, regardless of whether you invested more energy learning it. 

The term of retroactive interference was first introduced by Muller in 1900. Retroactive interference is the most common type of interference than proactive interference. The concept of retroactive interference is profoundly noteworthy in the investigation of memory as it has started a progressing debate with respect to whether the forgetting is because of the interference of other competing data or the unlearning of the material. The significant consequence one may get from the concept of retroactive interference is that forgetting isn’t just a weakness or failure of the memory but instead a vital piece of our stored collection of memories. Retroactive interference provides an understanding of the processes which cause forgetting. 

Retroactive Interference (An Update)

Examples of Retroactive Interference

There are a number of daily life experiences in which retroactive interference occurs.

  1. One of the most well-known instances of retroactive interference is the point at which an individual has better memories about the last years spent in the school as compared to the start of the school years. 
  2. Students can easily retrieve the new learned information before an exam than the knowledge they learned previously at the start of term. So the latest information interferes with the previous knowledge.
  3. Another usual experience is the point at which you begin learning another language, for example, Spanish and you’ve learned English before that, presently when you attempt to communicate in English, the new words you’ve learned in Spanish will begin to interfere with your recall of English words. 
  4. At the point when you learn new moves of dancing and later attempt to dance like you used to previously, you may encounter that you can’t do so in light of the fact that the new dancing moves you’ve adapted currently by one way or another appear to interfere with the old ones so the new and old dancing moves are get mixed with each other. 
  5. Similarly when you get another mobile number, you probably won’t be able to recall your old mobile number since you’re not utilizing it any longer.
  6. You may have just memorized the names of various nations in Asia, and later on you may have memorized the names of various nations in Africa. In the event that you were currently made to recall the names of nations in Asia, you may mix up the nations in Africa. The data is by all accounts mixing with each other and the recollections scatter up.
  7. When a teacher try to remember the names of her students enrolled in her class each year, she faces retroactive interference because the new names of students get mixed with the names of her previous students from last year.

Studies Related to Retroactive Interference

Some significant studies have added to the advancement of retroactive interference.  In one of the main investigations on the phenomenon of retroactive interference, specialist John A. Bergstrom had individuals sort cards into two distinct groups. He found that changing the area of the subsequent group came about in more slow performance, proposing that learning the standards for the new task interferes with the memory of rules for the previous task. 

In other study, Muller and Pilzecker in 1990 conducted research on the phenomenon of retroactive interference. They found that individuals were less inclined to retrieve nonsense syllables if mediating material was introduced 10 minutes or sooner following the first learning task. They recommended this demonstrated new recollections require a timeframe to get settled in memory, a procedure they named consolidation.

Another study was conducted in the year 1950 by clinician Benton J. Underwood. He took a look at Ebbinghaus’ acclaimed forgetting theory and presumed that forgetting was affected by time as well as by recently learned data.

Retroactive Interference (An Update)

Factors Causing Retroactive Interference

  • Competition

Competition is the main thing that prevents the retrieval of the memory in retroactive interference. New learned information competes with previously learned associations and the more recent the information is, the harder it becomes for previous information to compete consequently making it hard to recall older memories.

  • Unlearning

Associative unlearning is the factor which influences retroactive interference.   According to this concept the recently learned associations replace the previously learned associations in the brain causing the individuals to fail to remember the previous associations. 

  • Similar Words

At the point when the words are similar retroactive interference occurs. In an experiment the individuals were given with two lists of similar words. The ability of the individuals to retrieve the first list of words diminished as they were given another list of similar words. Anyhow, this finding additionally differentiates the control condition, as the individuals didn’t appear to encounter a lot of retroactive interference when made to retrieve the first list of words after a specific amount of rest.

  • Similar Sounds

Similar sounds have been found to cause retroactive interference. It was found during a study that presenting the similar sounds while in progression hindered the ability to retrieve past memories. It was found that short term memory gets puzzled when sound related tones are introduced progressively. This made retroactive interference happen as new heard sound hinders the recall of old heard sound.

  • Motor Skills

Maintenance of motor skills is additionally influenced by retroactive interference. Learning motor skill hinders the recall of previously rehearsed motor movements. An example of this would be the point at which a physical trainer learns new types of exercises. He can’t remember the previous learned exercises steps as effectively as the most recent exercises.

Steps to Reduce Retroactive Interference

While retroactive interference can dramatically affect the maintenance of new information, there are some successful techniques that can be executed to limit these impacts. 

  • Over learning 

Over learning is one powerful methodology that can be utilized to diminish retroactive interference. Over learning includes practicing new material past the purpose of acquisition. It implies practicing and rehearsing what you have learned again and again, significantly after you have accomplished adequate authority of the subject or expertise. Doing this assists with guaranteeing that the data will be progressively steady in long term memory and improve memory and performance.

  • Sleep

Sleep plays a very important role in reducing retroactive interference. Taking proper rest or sleep helps in better retrieving the memories. A number of studies have investigated the relationship between sleep and memory. The results showed that sleep protects the memories from getting mixed with each other, reduce the forgetting process over time and has a strong positive relationship with long term memory.

Conclusion

Retroactive interference is the interference of more current recollections with the recall of more precious memories. It can be said that the new information legitimately adds to the forgetting of past learned recollections. The impact of retroactive interference happens when any kind of task has not been practiced over an extensive period of time. Out of the two kinds of interference, retroactive interference is viewed as the more typical and increasingly problematic contrasted with proactive interference. Retroactive interference occurs because of the factors such as: competition, unlearning, similar words, similar sounds, motor skills etc. Retroactive interference is a problematic phenomenon of the memory process. There are some steps which have been identified which help in reducing retroactive interference to occur. These steps are over learning and sleep. By practicing the learned material over and over again and taking proper sleep at night can decrease the retroactive interference. 

Retroactive Interference (An Update)

FAQs about Retroactive Interference

What is retroactive interference in Psychology?

Retroactive interference happens when you forget a formerly learnt skill because of the learning of another skill. It means that later learning interferes with prior learning, where new recollections disturb old recollections.

What is proactive and retroactive interference?

Proactive interference happens when past recollections keep down a person from holding new recollections. Retroactive interference happens when new recollections keep down a person from holding old recollections.

What causes retroactive interference?

Retroactive interference happens when new recollections keep down a person from holding past recollections. Competition is the main thing that prevents the retrieval of the memory in retroactive interference. New learned information competes with previously learned associations and the more recent the information is, harder it becomes for previous information to compete consequently making it hard to recall older memories

What is a retroactive interference example?

Retroactive interference is when later data hinders attempting to recall more established data. For example if you begin learning another language, for example, Spanish and you’ve learned English before that, presently when you attempt to communicate in English, the new words you’ve learned in Spanish will begin to interfere with your recall of English words.

References

https://www.cleverism.com/proactive-and-retroactive-interference-explained/

https://practicalpie.com/retroactive-interference/

https://www.psychestudy.com/cognitive/memory/proactive-retroactive-interference
https://www.psychestudy.com/cognitive/memory/retroactive-interference

Retroactive Interference (An Update)

Juanita Agboola

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behaviour, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.