Evidence for proactive interference in the focus of attention of working memory

Carroll, Lauren M. and Jalbert, Annie and Penney, Alexander M. and Neath, Ian and Surprenant, Aimee M. and Tehan, Gerald (2010) Evidence for proactive interference in the focus of attention of working memory. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 64 (3). pp. 208-214. ISSN 1196-1961


Proactive interference (PI) occurs when an earlier item interferes with memory for a newer item. Whereas some researchers (e.g., Surprenant & Neath, 2009a) argue that PI can be observed in all memory systems, some multiple systems theorists (e.g., Cowan, 1999) propose that items in the focus of attention of working memory are immune to PI. Two experiments tested whether PI occurs when the to-be-remembered items are assumed, by multiple-systems theorists, to be held in the focus of attention. In each experiment, subjects saw four trials in a row with the same type of to-be-remembered items, followed by four trials in a row with a different type of material. On each trial, only 3 stimuli were shown, which is below the capacity limit of the focus of attention, and subjects were asked if a probe item was one of those 3 items seen. In both experiments, response time increased from Trial 1 to Trial 4, suggesting that items from the earlier trials interfered with memory on the later trials. In addition, release from PI was shown in that response times decreased with a change of materials. The results replicate those first reported by Hanley and Scheirer (1975), and pose a problem for theorists who argue that parts of short-term memory are immune to PI.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Permanent restricted access to paper due to publisher's copyright restrictions.
Faculty / Department / School: Historic - Faculty of Sciences - Department of Psychology
Date Deposited: 31 Dec 2010 07:40
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2013 23:47
Uncontrolled Keywords: proactive interference; working memory; focus of attention; short-term memory; recognition
Fields of Research : 17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences > 1702 Cognitive Sciences > 170201 Computer Perception, Memory and Attention
17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences > 1701 Psychology > 170110 Psychological Methodology, Design and Analysis
13 Education > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130309 Learning Sciences
Socio-Economic Objective: E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970117 Expanding Knowledge in Psychology and Cognitive Sciences
Identification Number or DOI: 10.1037/a0021011
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/7427

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