Proactive interference slows recognition by eliminating fast assessments of familiarity

Ilke Öztekin, Brian McElree

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The response-signal speed-accuracy tradeoff (SAT) procedure was used to investigate how proactive interference (PI) affects retrieval from working memory. Participants were presented with 6-item study lists, followed immediately by a recognition probe. A variant of a release from PI design was used: All items in a list were from the same semantic category (e.g., fruits), and the category was changed (e.g., tools) after three consecutive trials with the same category. Analysis of the retrieval functions demonstrated that PI decreased asymptotic accuracy and, crucially, also decreased the growth of accuracy over retrieval time, indicating that PI slowed retrieval speed. Analysis of false alarms to recent negatives (lures drawn from the previous study list) and distant negatives (lures not studied for 168+ trials) suggests that PI slowed retrieval by selectively eliminating fast assessments based on familiarity. There was no evidence indicating that PI affected slow processes involved with the recovery of detailed episodic information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)126-149
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2007


  • Cue overload
  • Familiarity and recollection
  • Memory retrieval
  • Proactive interference
  • Speed-accuracy tradeoff procedure
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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