"Forgetting" Information From Long Term Memory:
One possible cause of "forgetting" information from long term memory is retrieval failure. Another cause of "forgetting" is that one piece of information in memory may interfere with or change another. When older information interferes with newer informaiton, the interference is "proactive" (goes forward in time). When new information changes older information, the interference is "retroactive" (goes backward in time). Memories that are most likely to be changed though interference are those that are similar to one another.
Example: Suppose you learn Spanish as a freshman. As a sophomore you learn learn college algebra. Algebra and Spanish are not very similar, and are not likely to interfere with one another. Suppose, however, that you take French as a junior. French and Spanish are highly similar and very likely to interfere with one another. If you make French mistakes while trying to learn Spanish, that would be old memories interfering with new (proactive interference). If you make Spanish mistakes while trying to recall French words, that would be new memories interfering with old (retroactive interference).
If you are having difficulty in understanding proactive and retroactive interference, the diagram below may help.
Imagine that you are at a party. First you meet a woman named Julie. Then you meet a woman named Judy.
This page was last revised on 09/09/2008.