In this post, we’re going to illustrate proactive interference examples and retro interference examples to explain both concepts and theories as clearly as possible. But first, let’s take a step back.

Have you ever wondered how your subconscious mind works? What happens to old memories when new ones are made? Well, one thing’s for sure: the mind works in mysterious ways.

But to answer our question, we’ll have to discuss two very important theories: the proactive interference and retroactive interference theory.



What is the Proactive and Retroactive Interference Theory?

The interference theory discusses the interaction between past behavior and newly learned material. This includes thoughts and memories that cause conflicts in the restoration of memories.

These theories are based on the efforts required to recall past or recent memories. Inference theory can be categorized into two main types namely proactive interference theory and retroactive interference theory.



What is Proactive Interference?

Proactive interference occurs when old memories limit one’s capacity to recall new information. You’ve probably already witnessed this phenomenon when trying to recall phone numbers.

For instance, the old number you have had for several years can proactively interfere the process of remembering your new phone number.

Proactive Interference Examples

To help you get a better idea, here are some examples of proactive interference:

  1. When the aisles of a shopping mart are changed, you may instinctively start walking towards the old shelves instead of the new ones.
  2. You’ve probably learned of the old saying, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Well, that primarily happens because canines find it difficult to unlearn or prevent prior knowledge from getting in the way of new skills.
  3. Another common example is how some people still remember married women by their maiden names as opposed to their new last name.
  4. Proactive interference may also get in the way of performing physical tasks. For example, your hands may have a hard time adjusting to a new keyboard once you have started using a new one.
  5. Kids who pick up a bad habit may have a difficult time getting rid of it. For instance, if a child is taught to solve a math problem the wrong way, they may have trouble following new instructions.
  6. When children return to school after summer vacations, they often have trouble keeping up with their new schedule. For instance, they may find it difficult to get up in the morning.
  7. Once promoted to a new class, students may find it difficult to adjust themselves to their new schedule. For instance, students may find themselves accidentally running to their old classroom.

What is Retroactive Interference?

Retroactive interference is when new memories restrain one’s capacity to recall old information. This makes it difficult for users to recall old material.

Retroactive Interference Examples

To help you gain a better insight, here are few simple examples of retroactive interference theories that you will benefit from:

  1. Some folks have a hard time driving a manually operated car because they have recently started driving an automatic one.
  2. Suppose you’ve spent the entire summer learning French and the next couple of months learning Italian. Though, both the languages are quite similar, you may start confusing Italian for French because of your previous knowledge. This is a clear example of retroactive interference that occurs when newly attained information constrains our ability to process previously acquired information.
  3. Singers sometimes find it difficult to recall old song lyrics because of all the new songs they have learned.
  4. Suppose a brand has revamped their look with new color schemes and campaigns. In this case, customers may find it difficult to recall the brand’s old layout because of their new design.
  5. Some kids may have a tough time recalling old stories once they start reading new books. At times, they may also end up mixing two or more stories together.
  6. You may remember your current password but may not be able to recall your old one.

How can marketers use retroactive interference?

Retroactive interference basically involves unlearning. As programmers jump from one programming language to another, they’re actually forgetting previously learned information.

This is a form of conscious learning. However, in order to succeed, marketers need to focus on making potential consumers unlearn things unconsciously. PR agencies also use this strategy to distract people in the event of a crisis with unconscious unlearning.


Hopefully, this detailed guide has provided you all the information you need about proactive and retroactive interference. For more details, don’t hesitate to check out similar blogs from our psychology section.

Picture Credits: NewStatesMan


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