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Interference Theory

 

Explanations > Memory > Interference Theory

Description | Discussion | So what?

 

Description

We have difficulty in remembering things when one memory or thought interferes in some way with the memory we are trying to recall. This is most pronounced when two different responses are associated by the same stimulus.

Prooactive interference happens when an older memory interferes with the thing we are remembering.

Retroactive interference happens when a more recent memory interferes with the thing we are remembering.

Discussion

Interference theory started with Hugo Munsterberg in the 19th century. When he changed the pocket in which he kept his watch, he not only kept looking in the wrong place, but the whole change caused him to fumble and become more generally confused.

Interference theory gives little explanation of the internal processing that gives rise to the effect and is not as popular as it once was.

So what?

To get someone to remember something, keep the main cue unique for that item.

To confuse the other person, associate multiple responses with a single stimulus.

See also

Confusion principle

 

Underwood, B.J. and Postman, L. (1960). Extra-experimental sources of interference in forgetting, Psychological Review, 67, 73-95

 

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