Proactive Interference: Definition & Examples

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Retroactive Interference: Definition & Examples

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 Proactive Interference
  • 0:58 Important Related Concepts
  • 3:29 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Login or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Devin Kowalczyk

Devin has taught psychology and has a master's degree in clinical forensic psychology. He is working on his PhD.

Sometimes it is difficult to remember a particular thing. It becomes easy to jumble up things or mistake one thing for another when they are studied together. It seems like the ideas jump in front of each other.

Proactive Interference

When psychologists studied memory, they found there were a few particular ways in which learning something interfered with remembering something else. It seems like the pieces and parts of the memories jump around and get in the way of remembering something correctly.

Proactive Interference is when you memorize a list of information (words, names, ideas, formulas, and just about anything else that can be made into a list), and when remembering a later part of the list, an earlier memorized part of the list gets in the way. Here is a more visual way to understand it:

  • Learn A, learn B
  • Remember B
  • A interferes

Or, a more concrete example:

  • Learn the cities of Australia; learn the cities of Britain
  • You try and remember the cities in Britain
  • The cities of Australia keep popping into your head instead of the cities of Britain

Important Related Concepts

You can't study proactive interference without studying a few other ideas because they are intertwined.

The serial position curve was discovered by a researcher by the name of Ebbinghaus, who found that when memorizing lists of things, people tend to remember items at the beginning pretty well, the items in the middle poorly, and the items at the end of the list the best. It looks like this:

Serial Position Curve
null

Why is it called the serial position curve? An item is remembered best based on its serial position (first, second, third…fifty-seventh, fifty-eighth, second to last, last) in the list. Your ability to remember the items on the list can be predicted by the curve based on where the item is placed in the list.

Psychologists have labeled the effect where you can remember listed items at the beginning and end better than the stuff in the middle. When you remember items at the beginning of a list, it is called the primacy effect. When you remember stuff at the end of the list, it is called the recency effect.

The recency effect is related to something called retroactive interference, which is when you memorize A and B and try and remember A, but B interferes.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register for a free trial

Are you a student or a teacher?
I am a teacher

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 160 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account
Support