Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Testing Can Counteract Proactive Interference by Integrating Competing Information

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Testing Can Counteract Proactive Interference by Integrating Competing Information

Article excerpt

Published online: 14 August 2014

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Abstract Testing initially learned information before presenting new information has been shown to counteract the deleterious effects of proactive interference by segregating competing sources of information. The present experiments were conducted to demonstrate that testing can also have its effects in part by integrating competing information. Variations of classic A-B, A-D paired-associate learning paradigms were employed that included two lists of word pairs and a cued-recall test. Repeated pairs appeared in both lists (A-B, A-B), control pairs appeared in List 2 only (A-B, C-D), and changed pairs appeared with the same cue in both lists but with different responses (A-B, A-D). The critical manipulation was whether pairs were tested or restudied in an interpolated phase that occurred between Lists 1 and 2. On a final cued-recall test, participants recalled List 2 responses and then indicated when they recollected that responses had earlier changed between lists. The change recollection measure indexed the extent to which competing responses were integrated during List 2. Change was recollected more often for tested than for restudied pairs. Proactive facilitation was obtained in cued recall when change was recollected, whereas proactive interference was obtained when change was not recollected. These results provide evidence that testing counteracted proactive interference in part by making List 1 responses more accessible during List 2, thus promoting integration and increasing later recollection of change. These results have theoretical implications because they show that testing can counteract proactive interference by integrating or segregating competing information.

Keywords Proactive interference * Testing effects * Change recollection * Reminding * Integration

A large body of evidence has shown that by promoting the act of retrieval, testing can enhance memory in several ways (for reviews, see Roediger & Butler, 2011; Roediger & Karpicke, 2006a). One way that testing can enhance memory is by counteracting the deleterious effects of proactive interference. Proactive interference occurs when prior learning impairs memory for more recently learned information (for reviews, see Anderson & Neely, 1996; Crowder, 1976; Postman & Underwood, 1973). The primary mechanism by which testing has been held to counteract proactive interference is by segregating competing sources of information (e.g., Szpunar, McDermott, & Roediger, 2008; Tulving & Watkins, 1974). Consistent with this view, testing has been shown to induce context change (Pastötter, Schicker, Niedemhuber, & Bäuml, 2011; see also Jang & Huber, 2008), reduce cue overload (Nunes & Weinstein, 2012), and increase test expectancy (Weinstein, Gilmore, Szpunar, & McDermott, 2014). Although segregating competing information has long been shown to be effective for counteracting proactive interference (e.g., Underwood & Ekstrand, 1967), testing might also have its effects in an opposite way. The purpose of the present study is to show that testing can counteract proactive interference by promoting the integration of competing information.

The effects of testing on proactive interference have most prominently been demonstrated in multiple-list learning paradigms (e.g., Darley & Murdock, 1971; Nunes & Weinstein, 2012; Pastötter et al., 2011; Szpunar et al., 2008; Weinstein et al., 2014). For example, in Szpunar et al. (2008), participants studied five lists of words that were sometimes related and sometimes unrelated across lists. The primary manipulation was the task that intervened between study lists. Following each study list, groups of participants were either given a recall test or they were not tested. Groups that were not tested were either given additional study opportunities or completed distractor tasks. Following study, all participants were given a recall test on the final list following a short filled delay and a cumulative recall test over all the lists following a longer delay. …

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