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  1. Ralph I. Miller

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0454

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Miller, R. I. 2010. Interference. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. State University of New York at Binghamton

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


One of the earliest and most robust findings of experimental psychology is that two event representations in memory can compete with one another. If training on Task A precedes Task B, subsequent testing on Task B may yield impaired (i.e., proactive interference) or facilitated performance relative to control subjects who were not exposed to Task A. Conversely, subsequent testing on Task A may yield impairment (i.e., retroactive interference) or facilitation relative to control subjects who were not exposed to Task B. Such interference is commonly viewed as evidence of competition between the representations of Tasks A and B. Interference (and facilitation) has been observed across a wide variety of subjects (including humans and nonhuman species) and tasks. Much of the memory research conducted over the past century has attempted to identify relevant variables (for excellent reviews, old but still relevant, see Postman & Underwood, 1973; Underwood, 1957). The following remarks apply equally to proactive and retroactive interference (and facilitation) except where otherwise noted.


  • proactive interference;
  • proactive inhibition;
  • retroactive interference;
  • retroactive inhibition;
  • facilitation