Academic journal article Psychological Test and Assessment Modeling

Deterioration and Recovery in Verbal Recall: Repetition Helps against Pro-Active Interference

Academic journal article Psychological Test and Assessment Modeling

Deterioration and Recovery in Verbal Recall: Repetition Helps against Pro-Active Interference

Article excerpt


Proactive-interference (PI) is a longstanding research topic investigated in cognitive psychology. It consists of a memory decline during a memory experiment because items from previous lists intrude into the memorization of a current list (Underwood, 1945). PI also occurs in animals such as rats (Cohen & Armstrong, 1996; Dunnett & Martel, 1990; Dunnett, Martel, & Iversen, 1990) and pigeons (Thomas, Burr, & Vogt, 1982; Wilkie, 1986). As such, PI gives important clues to the nature of memory deterioration. The degree of pro-active interference depends on the amount of items that are recalled and the length of the delay before retrieval (Keppel & Underwood, 1962). PI can be prevented or reduced by changing the categorical membership of the memory items (Wickens, 1970) and hence their long-term memory representations are involved (Oberauer, Awh, & Sutterer, 2016). Pro-active interference (as well as retro-active interference) was found to be reduced after sleep which plays a role in memory consolidation (Abel & Bäuml, 2014). However, it is also possible to show resistance against PI by blocking out intrusive thoughts and having a good reading span (Friedman & Miyake, 2004). By allowing more time for encoding a word, PI is also reduced (Loess & Waugh, 1967). When more than two minutes were allowed for encoding, PI was negligible. Accordingly, because young children are slow information processors (Lange-Küttner, 2012), the extent of PI decreases as their cognition becomes more efficient with age (Kail, 2002), and increases again with aging (Carretti, Mammarella, & Borella, 2012).

The current study tests the rehearsal hypothesis that repetition of the words counter-acts pro-active interference in verbal recall (Schendel, 1976). Resistance against PI builds up especially with repeated testing as this prevents intrusions (Szpunar, McDermott, & Roediger, 2008, 2009; Wahlheim, 2015). Each memory list was once repeatedly assessed in order to foster memory consolidation. We predicted that while word memory would deteriorate, verbal recall would recover on each repetition, and could eventually halt memory deterioration during the experiment. We also expected that bilinguals would tend to be better in resisting PI (Bialystok & Feng, 2009; Dillon, McCormack, Petrusic, Cook, & Lafleur, 1973). Bilinguals' switching between languages trains their executive function which in turn is a protective factor against aging and even dementia (Bialystok, Craik, & Freedman, 2007; Woumans et al., 2015). However, we tested young adults where no aging effect could be expected. Instead, we hypothesized that bilingual young adults may be better in resisting PI because of their constant practice of upgrading their vocabulary in their languages.

Proactive interference (PI), rehearsal and repetition

Previous research found a release from PI via a categorical change of the stimulus items (Wickens, Born, & Allen, 1963) which indicates that people build up a pool of items across experimental blocks and subsequently confuse the items in this pool during retrieval. Hence, changing to a new pool (semantic item category) solves the problem as the previous items are neatly gathered elsewhere. In fact, this spatial metaphor seems to be more than just a metaphorical image that we use to illustrate the mental classification process because even changing the size of the display area produced release from PI (Turvey & Egan, 1969) and could improve memory performance (Lange-Küttner, 2013).

Already in very early studies, it was suspected that rehearsal of memory items may be more important for release from PI - and thus prevent memory deterioration - than the novelty of a different class of memory items (Reutener, 1972; Schendel, 1976). The early rehearsal hypothesis is in accordance with the working memory model which predicts that memory deterioration in verbal recall is prevented by rehearsal processes in the phonological loop (Baddeley, Gathercole, & Papagno, 1998). …

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