Proactive vs Retroactive Interference – MCAT Psychology | MedSchoolCoach

Proactive vs Retroactive Interference

MCAT Psychology - Chapter 2- Section 3 - Cognition - Memory
  1. Home
  2. »
  3. MCAT Masterclass
  4. »
  5. Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
  6. »
  7. Psychology
  8. »
  9. Cognition
  10. »
  11. Memory
  12. »
  13. Proactive vs Retroactive Interference – MCAT Psychology
Play Video

Sample MCAT Question - Proactive vs Retroactive Interference

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.

Conciousness-Altering Drugs

Get 1-on-1 MCAT Tutoring From a Specialist

With MCAT tutoring from MedSchoolCoach, we are committed to help you prepare, excel, and optimize your ideal score on the MCAT exam.


For each student we work with, we learn about their learning style, content knowledge, and goals. We match them with the most suitable tutor and conduct online sessions that make them feel as if they are in the classroom. Each session is recorded, plus with access to whiteboard notes. We focus on high-yield topics if you’re pressed for time. If you have more time or high-score goals, we meticulously cover the entire MCAT syllabus.

Proactive Interference

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

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.

Explore More MCAT Masterclass Chapters

Take a closer look at our entire MCAT Masterclass or explore our Biochemistry lessons below.

Interview - Job interview

One-on-One Tutoring

Are you ready to take your MCAT performance to a whole new level? Work with our 99th-percentile MCAT tutors to boost your score by 12 points or more!

See if MCAT Tutoring can help me

Talk to our enrollment team about MCAT Tutoring

Medical College Admission Test - MCAT Physics

MCAT Go Audio Course

Engaging audio learning to take your MCAT learning on the go, any time, any where. You'll be on the way to a higher MCAT score no matter where you are. Listen to over 200+ lessons.

Stock photography - Image

MCAT Practice Exams

Practice makes perfect! Our mock exams coupled with thorough explanations and in-depth analytics help students understand exactly where they stand.

MCAT Prep App Mobile

MCAT Prep App

Access hundreds of MCAT videos to help you study and raise your exam score. Augment your learning with expert-created flashcards and a question banks.

Happy April Fool’s Day from MedSchoolCoach!

While mastering sleep-learning is still a dream, MCAT Go helps you study for the MCAT while you are awake. Listen to MCAT Go for free (a $99 value) by entering your email below to receive an exclusive discount code. This ain’t no joke.