Memory Interference

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Interference and the Similarity of Information Introduction
Memory can be defined as the brain’s ability to encode, store and retrieve information. At times, the retrieval process can be completed unproductively, this occurrence is referred to as forgetting. Forgetting is the inability to retrieve certain information that is stored in memory (Grivas, 2014). An individual’s ability to recall information can be affected by a number of factors.
Some research, such as the studies of Muller and Pilzecker (1900), suggests that the recall of information can be affected by other memories held in the brain. This explanation of forgetting is known as the interference theory. This theory proposes that when information in memory is similar, it can
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This is seen in Figure 1, as the experimental groups average percentage of words correctly recalled (58.9%), is considerably lower than that of the control group (84.4%). These results suggest that the similarity of information can affect interference, a theory which is supported by the research of Osgood, as well as the studies of Runquist, Pullyblank, and Whyte. This effect may be a result of new memories superseding those that were previously stored, thus being recalled in place of the original information. This theory is also known as the two-factor theory; an explanation of failed retrieval due to unlearning and competition. Osgood describes the two factors involved in this theory in the following way, “one factor is the competition of original and interpolated responses at the point of recall and the other is the unlearning of the original responses during interpolation”. As the experimental group’s second set of information had similar meaning to that of the first set, these two factors may have been the cause for retrieval failure. It is a possibility that the reliability of these results may have been effected by the fact that some individuals have more effective recall skills than others. As the results were recorded in averages, a participant who scored highly may have had a significant effect on the overall average of their group. The effects of retroactive interference is seen in Figure 2 of the results. This shows that the experimental group’s ability to recall words from List A was affected, as they retrieved words from List B instead. While some words from List A were not recorded, none of the participants in the control condition wrote a word that was from the alternative list (List B). This exemplifies the idea that the brains representation of a memory, can be

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