Psychology 12 marker- room for improvement?Watch
Outline and evaluate the Interference Theory (12 marks)
The interference theory suggests that learning two pieces of conflicting information results in either one or both pieces being forgotten. This effect is exaggerated if the two sets of information are similar. Interference occurs in the long-term memory.
Proactive interference is when an old memory interferes with a new one. For example, changing the cutlery drawer and still going to look for cutlery in the old drawer.
Retroactive interference occurs when a new memory interferes with the old. For example, learning a new module for a subject but forgetting the content of the previous module.
In 1900, Muller researched retroactive interference by making participants learn a list of syllables and later, describe images. He found that after describing the images, the participants struggled to remember the syllables they had previously learned as the new information had interfered with the old.
Other studies into interference include McGeogh and McDonald’s research into how the similarity of information affects memory. They used two sets of words- set A and B. They asked participants to learn both sets one after the other and found that if the words in set B were similar to set A, participants had forgotten 25% more of set A than they did when the words were dissimilar- showcasing the theory of similarity enhancing interference.
Interference theory has been studied for many years, with thousands of laboratory experiments being conducted. As laboratory settings exclude extraneous variables they add to the reliability of experiment repetition and provide strong evidence for interference theory.
However, laboratory experiments often have low ecological validity as they use conditions and tasks that are irrelevant to real life. Controlled experiments also often use timing incomparable to real life, as most tests are conducted in a few hours or days whereas real information and interference take anywhere from weeks to many years to develop.
Nevertheless, field experiments have been done such as that of Baddeley and Hitch. Rugby players were asked about the number of games they have played and the teams which they played against. The researchers found that players who had played in more matches had less recollection of the names of the teams they played against, and those who had played fewer games remembered the team names of their oppositions much easier. This supports the interference theory as the clash of information causes more forgetting; even in real-life situations.