Which of the following examples demonstrates retroactive interference?
a) A man has trouble remembering what to order at a restaurant after they changed the menu.
b) A woman cannot recall her old passwords after she changed them.
c) A child who is learning two languages mixes the two together when she tries to recall what she has learned.
d) A teenager cannot remember events or people from his past.
B is correct. Retroactive interference occurs when learning new information disrupts retrieval of old information. In this example, the woman learns new information (new passwords), which interferes with her ability to recall her old passwords (old information). Therefore, this is an example of retroactive interference. Answer choice A is incorrect because it is an example of proactive interference. Answer choice C is incorrect because the newer and older memories are mixing and interfering with each other. It is not clear if this is proactive or retroactive interference or even if memories are interfering with the retrieval of other memories. Answer choice D is incorrect because this is an example of retrograde amnesia.
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Proactive interference occurs when older memories interfere with the retrieval of new memories. For example, let’s say a pool of subjects is divided into two groups. One group is tasked with only memorizing a list of mammals, and the other group is tasked with first memorizing a list of trees, but then also memorizing the same list of mammals. We can predict that participants in the second group will be worse at memorizing and recalling the list of mammals because they have recently encoded other information, disrupting the process of encoding new memories.
Retroactive interference occurs when you learn new information that disrupts the retrieval of old information. For example, say you memorized a new phone number. Learning that new phone number might make it more difficult to recall your old phone number. The new information is retroactively interfering with your old memory.
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