Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior

Living Edition
| Editors: Jennifer Vonk, Todd Shackelford

Proactive Interference

  • Susana Carnero-SierraEmail author
  • Paula Alfonso-Arias
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-47829-6_750-1



Proactive interference is the appearing of a problem in a new learning, induced by the recall of previous information. An example would be when two word lists are learned sequentially: first list A and list B after. Proactive interference occurs when it is required to recall list B, but words of the A list are recalled instead.


Proactive interference is a memory phenomenon present in daily life constantly (Baddeley et al. 2009). An example can be seen when the password of your e-mail account changes, but you keep typing the old one instead.

One of the first authors to mention proactive interference was Underwood (1957). In his studies, he asked participants to learn nonsense syllables, observing high levels of forgetting after 24 h. Underwood thought that it could be due to the hard demand of study tasks present in students that used to be the experimental subjects of his studies. The...

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  1. Baddeley, A., Eysenck, M. W., & Anderson, M. C. (2009). Memory. New York: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bouton, M. E. (1993). Context, time, and memory retrieval in the interference paradigms of pavlovian learning. Psychological Bulletin, 114(1), 80–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Underwood, B. J. (1957). Interference and forgetting. Psychological Review, 64(1), 49–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Universidad de OviedoOviedoSpain

Section editors and affiliations

  • Kenneth Leising
    • 1
  1. 1.Texas Christian UniversityForth WorthUSA