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What is forgetting?

• a persons loss of the ability to recall or recognise something they have previously learned


What is interference?

An explanation of forgetting in terms of one memory disrupting the ability to recall another. This is most likely to occur when the two memories have some similarity


What is retroactive interference?

Learning new things interferes with the old memories/old things


What was Müller's study on the effects of retroactive interference?

• gave participants nonsense syllables to learn
• given interval / gap before recall
• group 1: asked to describe landscape pictures during interval
• group 2: not shown landscape pictures
• recall of list was worse in those shown the paintings (less good recall if there is an intervening task)
• shows that the intervening task caused retroactive interference because they couldn't remember what they learned before


What is proactive interference?

Past learning interferes with new learning


What was Underwood's study on proactive interference?

• participants asked to learn lists of words
• found that participants don't learn the lists of words given later on as well as they learn the lists of words given earlier
• if asked to learn 10+ lists, after 24 hours, they forgot 80% of the info
• if there was only one list they only forgot about 30%
• this shows that too much new info can result in proactive interference which leads to forgetting


What was McGeoch and McDonald's study about interference and similarity, which showed that interference was a more likely cause of forgetting than decay, because the type of interfering information matters?

• word lists: list A was learnt by all participants
• participants split into 3 groups and given list B, then asked to recall list A
• list B was split into three types of different word lists, it was either
- synonyms of words in list A (similar words)
- nonsense words/jibberish
- numbers
• found that similar words led to more forgetting of list A (12% recall), less effect with jibberish words (26% recall), least effect with numbers (37% recall)


What was Baddely and Hitch's interference study in an everyday setting regarding rugby players who were asked to recall all the other rugby teams they had played against?

• rugby players who all had the same season length (start of the season until the end), but had different intervening games (some had missed games due to illness, injury etc)
• decay theory suggests that time should cause decaying, and since they all had the same length of season they should all have similar results
• interference theory suggests that the more games played per player = more forgetting because of interference.This is what happened


Criticisms of the interference theory

other than:

the retrieval failure explanation of forgetting

e.g) effects may just be temporary: tests again later on suggest info is just temporarily inaccessible/unretrievable rather than complete gone/unavailable

• Kane and Engle - individual differences regarding the effects of proactive interference (some people are impacted more)
• low ecological validity: research is often lab-based using nonsense syllables - not everyday memory use, may result in a lack of motivation from participants to truly learn words, meaning the effects shown are greater than they actually are
• Anderson - theory is vague & conditional e.g the memories need to be similar, may not be the most important cause of forgetting