, Volume 27, Issue 5, pp 759-767

The role of interference in memory span


In two experiments, we investigated the possibility that susceptibility to proactive interference (PI) affects performance on memory span measures. We tested both younger and older adults (older adults were tested because of the suggestion that they are differentially susceptible to PI). We used two different span measures and manipulated testing procedures to reduce PI for these tasks. For older adults, span estimates increased with each PI-reducing manipulation; for younger adults, scores increased when multiple PI manipulations were combined or when PI-reducing manipulations were used in paradigms in which within-task PI was especially high. The findings suggest that PI critically influences span performance. We consider the possibility that interference-proneness may influence cognitive behaviors previously thought to be governed by capacity.

This research was supported by Grant 4306 from the National Institute on Aging.