Interference Theory of Forgetting: Meaning And Application

According to the interference hypothesis of forgetting, recollection loss over time is not responsible for all forms of amnesia. It is generally accepted that competing data in good recollection is more likely to blame for forgetting than actual recollection loss. The idea that distraction leads to recollection loss goes back quite some time. While this hypothesis has been the go-to for explaining forgetfulness in ordinary life for some time, it has just become the norm in the last few generations thanks to experimental work. Intentional or unintentional interference may cause forgetfulness to occur either before or after the interference occurs. The term "recency effect" describes what happens when fresh data makes it harder to recall previously stored recollections. This is in contrast to proactive interruption, which occurs when remnants of prior knowledge get in the way of recalling new material.

What is the Interference Theory of Forgetting?

As a hypothesis of remembering, "interference" is an interesting concept to consider. Learning is hindered by distraction. The idea is that data stored in good recollection is lost and cannot be recalled into poor recollection since doing so would cause the two forms of data to collide. The LTM store contains an enormous amount of encoded recollections. The difficulty of retrieval arises from the need to recollect the relevant data in question and do the necessary work in the limited, time-limited environment afforded by STM. The degree of interference is affected by whether or not data about the timing of examining the association into LTM is retained. Disruption may have either a forward-looking or a backward-looking impact.

Facts about the Interference Theory of Forgetting

Recollection and forgetting have been the subject of intense study for a lengthy moment. There are several potential theories, one of which is interference theory. The advancement of interruption theory is largely due to the work of several influential researchers. John A. Bergstrom conducted one of the initial investigations on interference by having volunteers sort cards into two clusters. It seems that understanding the first job criteria conflicted with the second challenge's recall since he observed that efficiency slowed down when the second pile was moved. Muller and Pilzecker, two scientists, did seminal work on recollection traces. They discovered that people's ability to remember phrases decreased when other data was supplied between the nonsense words. This led them to conclude that it takes time for fresh recollections to become fixed in mind, a process called "consolidation."

Types of Interference Theory of Forgetting


Proactive interference may impede recollection retrieval when previously stored data gets in the way of more recent data. The teaching method is frequently simpler to remember than new material because it has had more time to settle into good recollection and practice. It may be frustrating when proactive intervention hinders one's ability to acquire new skills.

If one just moved, it is easy to mistake using one's old address on documents that need to be filled out. Having to override an earlier recollection of one's former address might be challenging. Recollections acquired in comparable circumstances are more likely to entangle one another over time. Frequently, one will notice that the motor skills obtained for one skill conflict with the neurological skills being developed for a different ability. When individuals are asked to determine if an object has occurred on a prior knowledge list, poor list discrimination results from aggressive intervention. Proactive interference is more effective when the items or pairings are taught some conceptual relationship with one another. Delos Wickens found that when the class of the learned objects changes, the built-up proactive hindrance is released, allowing for more processes in STM. If one wants one's participant to be given the highest chance of encoding novel experiences into LTM, it is ideal for providing new abilities later in practice.


It is called retroactive disruption when more recent recollections prevent access to previously stored ones. This interference has a retrograde impact, making it harder to remember what was previously learned. Retroactive interference occurs when fresh data makes it harder to remember previously acquired data. A musician learning a new song might complicate their ability to remember an earlier, prior knowledge tune. The term "retroactive interference," often referred to as "retroactive inhibition," describes the phenomenon in which more recent recollections prevent the recall of more distant ones. New data makes it more likely that an old one will be forgotten. Retrospective interference sets in when any ability has not been practiced repeatedly over prolonged periods. There are two types of constructive interference, whereas retro interference is often seen as higher prevalent and troublesome than proactive interference. The term "representational invariance" was coined by Muller and is now widely used in the scientific community. These forefathers of recollection research showed that cramming the time frame with activities and data significantly impacted the remembered key elements. Because it involves both competitiveness and learning to accept, retroactive intervention may be more disruptive than proactive forms of intervention.


Let us pretend one is a grad student for a final exam. A lot may happen between the time one starts studying and sitting down to take the exam. During this time, a pupil has several options, including attending other courses, working, watching TV, reading books, and talking to others. Other recollections may arise, competing with the exam-related content the student studied and the natural degradation that occurs with time. If this person majored in history, they might have also studied related topics, which may be even more problematic.


Although interference is just one possible cause of forgetfulness, it plays a significant role in explaining why we forget. It might be very challenging to remember previously acquired knowledge if competing recollections interfere with one another. It may be especially challenging to recollect more recent experiences, which might impede learning. Although laboratory studies have shown that interference does occur and has an effect, it is far more challenging to attribute forgetfulness only to interference in real-life situations.

Updated on: 14-Dec-2022


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