Proactive Inhibition and Its Effect on Memory Recall

Many studies have tried to explain how the interference with the memory, whether intentional or accidental can influence the ability to recall memories.  The different types of studies have shown some significance in relation to the proactive inhibition of memory recall. This study, using only one variable as interference, shows that the significance of a single variable is unsubstantial.  From these results it can be deemed that it will take more than a single variable to create memory decay.  In fact it would seem that it would require many interactive variables interfering with short-term and long-term memory for any memory decay to occur.

Keywords memory recall, proactive inhibition, short term memory, long term memory

Proactive Inhibition and Its Effect on Memory Recall
Memory recall has been a major factor and research topic since the acknowledgement of classical and operant conditioning.  While this can be considered a major part of cognitive learning, the researchers wanted to understand how the recalling of a learned memory or piece of information was retrieved from short-term and long-term memory.

Proactive inhibition is the effect of a newly learned piece of information that interferes with the retrieval of information previously learned (Bunting 2006).  From the very beginning of the study of memory recall, the deterioration of those previously known memories in clinical recall trials created this new concept and even more research in the field of memory recall.  Not long after the initial studies, it was noticed that certain factors created the inhibition of memory while other types of information actually helped in the recall process (Bissett, Nee,  Jonides 2009 Brown 1958 Brown, Brown, Mosbacher,  Dryden 2006 Bunting 2006 Friedman  Miyake 2004 Martin  McElree 2009 Peterson 1966 Peterson  Peterson 1959 White 2007 White, Parkinson, Brown  Wixted 2004).  The understanding of how and why one group of data inhibits recall and one group of data increases recall is of major interest.  Within the last six years, many researchers have been trying to account for this difference.  By combining word groups and creating different semantics, the testing of memory recall can be measured as to whether the words inhibit recall or actually aids in recall.

For the last half a century or more, researchers have been studying memory retrieval and recall.  In 1958, John Brown, examined the recognition of a memory from data that was immediately given, within a few seconds.  He wanted to understand the how immediate memory worked and the length of time that would be considered immediate.  The results showed that when the stimuli that was introduced within a few seconds of the initial introduction to the data, the relationship between the data effected recall.  If the data were similar it was much more likely that the subject became confused and proactive inhibition occurred.

Not only was the type of data affecting the recall of memory, but Peterson  Peterson (1959) discovered that the loss of the recall ability was also affected by the amount of time at the initial learning of the data and the repetition of the learning, meaning that other learning factors contributed to the initial learning and recall of the memory.  This led to the realization that short-term memory research had been neglected and is a major factor within proactive inhibition and memory recall.

Peterson (1966) did another study in regards to both short-term and long-term memory and how these function. The findings showed that both long- and short-term memory functioned in a similar way.  Repetition increased recall while interference of any kind inhibited recall.  He focused on both retroactive interference and proactive interference as the two forms to be studied.  Both types showed reduced recall ability when the pairing and cues were similar.

Studies continued for the next 30 years each gaining just a little more knowledge than the last, and with new ways of looking at the brain and its functions. New research in the areas of proactive inhibition and the way in which it functions in relation to other types of response interference was also done. Friedman and Miyake (2004) showed in their research that proactive inhibition was a problem with recall, but that there was also a response-distractor inhibition and resistance to distractor interference that influenced the memory retrieval when new stimuli were introduced.  The two both affected in different ways the cognitive processes of retrieval.  In 2009, Bissett, Nee, and Jonides studied the ideas of dissociable memory which focuses on the divisions associated with the recall of information, and like Friedman  Miyake (2004) found that response inhibition affected proactive inhibition while prepotent response inhibition did not influence the recall and thus can be understood as the cognitive processes have some control over the inhibition of recall and the responses that are retrieved.

Wixted, White, Parkinson, and Brown (2004) looked at the ways in which reinforcers helped with the release of the proactive inhibition.  They found that if the same cues were used and reinforced over several trials that the inhibition is less than if the researchers used different cues.  However, the study does not focus on the long-term memory retrieval, but in fairly short-term introduction and retrieval of data.

In 2006, Brown, Brown, Mosbacher and Dryden worked within the research of proactive inhibition using the introduction of information that is known to be false and then correcting it to see if there would be any problems with recall.  When the negative information was given as a retroactive interference the proactive inhibition was not affected. However, if the correct information was given first and then the false information was given the recall was affected.  This study showed that there are variables that can affect the proactive inhibition of memory recall and Brown et al believe this needs to be researched further to gain a better understanding of the way in which false data is corrected and retrieved.

Not only is long-term memory recall a major topic, but working memory is also affected by proactive inhibition.  Bunting (2006) focused on the working memory in relation to the length of time that one can consider a memory to be in the working memory phase, and the move to long-term intelligence.  The results showed that words were more easily remembered and recalled than a mixture of words and numbers, or numbers alone.  This shows that the type of data that is most often affected by proactive inhibition differs in how it is remembered initially.  White (2007) completed a similar study focusing on spatial and verbal cues in relation to recall in adults with ADHD.  Adults with ADHD were not affected spatially but when the stimuli were verbal the adults with ADHD were more apt to have proactive inhibitions in retrieval of long-term memory.

The study of proactive inhibition in relation to words and phrases is still going strong. Martin and McElree (2009) focused on the effects of verb-phrase ellipsis and the retrieval speed of the memory when a direct cue is used.  The results showed some changes in relation to retroactive inhibition and proactive inhibition.  The researchers, however, acknowledge that much more research is needed to truly understand the influences of retroactive inhibition and direct responses and retrieval speed to truly understand the way in which proactive inhibition functions.

The fact remains that cognitive process of memory and retrieval remains very much a mystery.  Even now, researchers are only grazing the top of the functioning of the brain.  However, gaining more knowledge in the influences of retrieval and recall will not only help to better understand the loss of knowledge, but will possibly be able to create ways to retain knowledge and create better ways to retrieve that information.  Proactive inhibition does occur but through the research, the results have shown that there are definitive factors that affect the recall or the release of the memory and this is where the research needs to go next, the need to focus on the factors that release the proactive inhibition and allow for greater retrieval of memories.

The current study will be focusing on the proactive inhibition in relation to the ability to recall memories. From the previous research, it would seem that proactive inhibition is influenced by the structures used to measure the recall outcome.  Factors that are similar reinforce the recall factors that are extremely different can cause confusion or the inability to recall the memory. It can also be assumed that if the subject is given misinformation then before the memory is learned there will be no problem with recall, but if that same information is given after, then the recall is affected.  Proactive inhibition will be studied in relation to the basic concepts of recall without outside influences.  The Brown-Peterson Paradigm is used to obtain the data to be measured in our test subjects using a 3x5 analysis of variance to test the differences in memory recall in relation to the theory of proactive inhibition.

This study was based on a subject base of 18 undergraduate students at the California State University located in Los Angeles, California.  There is no determination as to the number of male versus female, therefore this demographic variable will not be considered in the results. All the subjects were found to be acceptable giving the study and N18.  The test was administered by three teacher aids and monitored by the professor.

Materials and Procedure
The 18 subjects were given the Brown-Peterson Paradigm for the measuring of the decay of learned information which could cause problems for the retrieval of previously learned material.  The subjects were given the test five times over a specific period of time, involving the baseline, the introduction of new material to learn, and the outcome of the information that was lost when new information was learned.  The subjects were tested in three groups. The first group was called the proactive inhibitionno release.  The subjects in this group were given stimulus words from equivalent semantic categories.  The second group was the proactive inhibitionrelease group where the first four trials had stimulus words in the same semantic categories, but the fifth trial used words from a different semantic group.  The last group was no proactive inhibition which received words from differing semantic groups with each trial.

To conduct this study, groups of five words were written on large index cards.  The subject looked at the words on the index card for approximately five seconds.  At the end of that time, the subject was required to count backwards by threes from 500, which took approximately 30 seconds as was considered the experiment distracter.  After counting, the subject is given ten seconds in which they try to recall the words and write them on a piece of paper and then the next trial would begin.  When each of the three groups made it through each variable the data was entered and analyzed by SPSS and the results are as follows.

The three phases were then analyzed within a 3x5 ANOVA to determine if there was decay in memory recall and to what extent the decay had achieved. Looking at Table 1, the first variable in relation to the number of trials, one can see that in the case of the average of proactive inhibition with no recall successively lowers the second and fourth trial, while the third and fifth trial regains some lost memory recall. However the standard deviations show that trial two has an excessive deviation in relation to the remainder of the trials.  The second variable of proactive inhibition actions with recall shows the same types of results with trials two and four being less than three and five, and again the standard deviation in trial two is excessive in its deviation from the norm.  The last variable with no proactive inhibition introduced the third trial is the lowest mean of only 3.22, while the rest stay above 3.50 meaning that with no introduction of proactive inhibition material the recall is not as affected as with there is proactive inhibition material introduced to the subject.

The second table shows that while there are slight differences in the variables, there is not any significant variable to prove the introduction of the proactive inhibitor influences the recall of memory.  The p value needed to be less than .01 for the significance of the data to show that interference in memory recall creates more memory decay than without interference. The p value of each variable is well over .2 and thereby accepts the null hypothesis that memory recall is not influenced by the interference or lack of interference.

The study within this report was trying to see if the proactive inhibition would be influenced by stimulus word groups, some being semantically equivalent and others being in opposition.  The study used three groups of subjects that included proactive inhibition with no release, proactive inhibition with release and the absence of the proactive inhibition of using semantically equivalent word groups.  The results showed that there were no significant differences between the three groups based on the one variable difference within the two experimental groups and against the control group.

Based on the research within this study, the conclusion is that by just adding a single type of interference will not inhibit memory recall of short-term memory any more than normal daily activities.  In fact through within the literature review it is obvious that only significant results were found when the inclusion of many variables were accounted for in relation to proactive inhibition of memory recall when dealing with the decay of long-term memory in relation to the new information stored in short-term memory.

The relationship between the interferences and the recall is very complex relationship in that some are similar, some are different, and some are incorrect.  In any case, the interference of only one condition does not show any substantial influence and thereby the study shows that memory decay is not affected by proactive inhibitors or other single variables. More research will need to be conducted in more complex ways to gain better understanding of the types of variables that occur naturally that may be the interference that is associated with memory recall. By understanding the ways in which short-term memory works, researchers are able to provide better ways of conducting treatment options including the cognitive behavior therapy which institutes the use of relearning behaviors.  By using the knowledge gained in the studies of proactive inhibition, the strategies for learning new behaviors can be streamlined with much success.


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