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Another look at retroactive and proactive interference: A quantitative analysis of conversion processes

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Traditionally, the causes of interference phenomena were sought in “real” or “hard” memory processes such as unlearning, response competition, or inhibition, which serve to reduce the accessibility of target items. I propose an alternative approach which does not deny the influence of such processes but highlights a second, equally important, source of interference—the conversion (Tulving, 1983) of accessible memory information into memory performance. Conversion is conceived as a problem-solving-like activity in which the rememberer tries to find solutions to a memory task. Conversion-based interference effects are traced to different conversion processes in the experimental and control conditions of interference designs. I present a simple theoretical model that quantitatively predicts the resulting amount of interference. In two paired-associate learning experiments using two different types of memory tests, these predictions were corroborated. Relations of the present approach to traditional accounts of interference phenomena and implications for eyewitness testimony are discussed.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Leipzig, Germany

Publication date: February 1, 2005

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