What Is the Difference Between Proactive and Retroactive Interference?

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Proactive interference causes people to forget knowledge and ideas that have been learned recently because of interference from old memories. On the other hand, retroactive interference occurs when recently learned information makes the mind forget previously learned information.

Proactive interference sometimes occurs because the information a person is trying to learn heavily contradicts what the person has learned before. This frequently happens when people have set their minds on certain attitudes and behaviors, and the old memories stop them from embracing new attitudes.

Retroactive interference makes the human mind forget old information. Even though previously learned information remains stored in the brain, a person needs to retrieve it from the long-term memory. However, this is not always possible because the working memory is preoccupied with newly acquired information.

The theory of interference states that interference occurs during learning when the newly learned information interacts with previously learned information, affecting transfer between long-term memory and working memory. This implies that stored information remains in the brain but cannot be easily retrieved due to competition from newly acquired information. Forgetting things is often rooted in the difficulty of transferring information from the working memory to the long-term memory and the inability to recall information from the long-term memory.