C., & Hasher, L. (2001). Interference. In G. Maddox (Ed.), Encyclopedia
of Aging, 3rd Edition (pp. 553-555). New York: Springer-Verlag.
Excerpt from Chapter:
Interference is a generic term used to describe disruptive effects
of three sources of irrelevant information: concurrent distractors, currently
irrelevant memories, and strong but situationally inappropriate responses.
All three sources tend to slow correct responding and reduce accuracy.
In general, older adults are more susceptible to each source of interference
(Hasher, Zacks & May, 1999; McDowd, Oseas-Kreger & Filion, 1995)
Interference in memory is traditionally studied using lists of
unrelated word pairs in which one element arbitrarily serves as the cue
(stimulus) for recall of the other (response). At test, participants are
given one of these words (the stimulus word) and asked to remember the
other (the response word). Interference can be created by pairing the
stimulus word with additional response words in a list presented either
before (PI) or after (RI) the to-be-remembered list.
Older adults show greater competition from irrelevant information even
when explicitly instructed to forget such information, as in directed
forgetting studies. Successful directed forgetting is demonstrated by
lower memory for "forget" items and greater memory for "remember"
items, compared to conditions in which all studied items are to be remembered.
Relative to younger adults, older adults remember more "forget"
items as a proportion of the total number of items recalled and are more
likely to intrude "forget" items when trying to recall "remember"
word (Zacks, Radvansky & Hasher, 1996).
In general, then, older adults are more vulnerable than younger adults
to interference from concurrent distractors, from currently irrelevant
memories, and from strong but inappropriate habitual responses. Age differences
in interference proness may contribute to age differences on many tasks,
including those measuring working memory (May, Hasher & Kane, 1999;
McDowd, Oseas-Kreger, & Filion, 1995). In some cases, reducing the
role of interference in a task can reduce or even eliminate age differences
in performance (e.g., May et al., 1999; Radvansky, Zacks, & Hasher,
1996). Finally, recent work has shown that some age differences in interference
can be exaggerated when participants are tested in the afternoon, rather
than the morning, a finding tied to age differences in circadian arousal
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