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Memory and Proactive Interference for spatially distributed items

Endress, A. (2022). Memory and Proactive Interference for spatially distributed items. Memory and Cognition, 50(4), pp. 782-816. doi: 10.3758/s13421-021-01239-1


Our ability to briefly retain information is often limited. Proactive Interference (PI) might contribute to these limitations (e.g., when items in recognition tests are difficult to reject after having appeared recently). In visual Working Memory (WM), spatial information might protect WM against PI, especially if encoding items together with their spatial locations makes item-location combinations less confusable than simple items without a spatial component. Here, I ask (1) if PI is observed for spatially distributed items, (2) if it arises among simple items or among item-location combinations, and (3) if spatial information affects PI at all. I show that, contrary to views that spatial information protects against PI, PI is reliably observed for spatially distributed items except when it is weak. PI mostly reflects items that appear recently or frequently as memory items, while occurrences as test items play a smaller role, presumably because their temporal context is easier to encode. Through mathematical modeling, I then show that interference occurs among simple items rather than item-location combinations. Finally, to understand the effects of spatial information, I separate the effects of (a) the presence and (b) the predictiveness of spatial information on memory and its susceptibility to PI. Memory is impaired when items are spatially distributed, but, depending on the analysis, unaffected by the predictiveness of spatial information. In contrast, the susceptibility to PI is unaffected by either manipulation. Visual memory is thus impaired by PI for spatially distributed items due to interference from recent memory items (rather than test items or item-location combinations).

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Publisher Keywords: Temporary Memory; Long-Term Memory; Working Memory; Short-Term Memory; Proactive Interference; Distinctiveness
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
SWORD Depositor:
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