Overcoming the Negative Consequences of Interference That Results From Recognition Memory Testing

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Forgetting, Memory

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Theories of why humans forget have been challenged by the newly discovered list-length/output-interference paradox, in which—under certain testing conditions—learning is not harmed by the amount of verbal material studied, whereas retrieval of that material becomes more difficult with increases in the number of items tested. The latter finding is known as output interference, and the results of the experiment reported here indicate that a release from output interference is obtained when the nature of the items is changed during testing. Specifically, when participants are asked to recognize items from two categories, output interference is minimized when items from each category are tested separately in large blocks. This finding supports models of forgetting that assume interference arises from information about the to-be-learned material that is stored in memory; in contrast, this finding is difficult to explain using models that assume forgetting is the result only of changing context.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Psychological Science, v. 23, issue 2, p. 115-119