Proactive interference refers to the phenomena that learning and memory for previous items interfere with those for subsequent items. Previous studies have shown that there was a bias in participants’ proactive interference monitoring, but it is still unclear whether proactive interference can be reduced or overcome and how to eliminate the deviation of proactive interference monitoring.
The present study used three experiments to investigate whether learning- testing experience could improve the monitoring and control of proactive interference. 102 undergraduates with normal vision participated in this study. The sample sizes of Experiment 1, 2, and 3 were 40, 31, and 31 respectively. Experiment 1 examined whether the participants were able to realize proactive interference effect. The learning materials were divided into the control condition (A–B, C–D) and the interference condition (A–B, A–D). During the study phase, participants were asked to estimate their recall performances either immediately or after a delay. Experiment 2 examined whether the participants with learning- testing experience were aware of proactive interference. Participants were only asked to estimate their recall performances after a delay (delay-JoL condition only). Experiment 3 used a self-pace allocation study time procedure and showed that participants must have learning- testing experience with proactive interference to become aware of and reduce the effects of proactive interference.
In Experiment 1 and 2, memory accuracy and JoLs were recorded by E-prime, and in Experiment 3, the allocated time for each type of items and memory performance were recorded. Data was analyzed with SPSS 18.0. The results showed that: (1) The monitoring of proactive interference had a bias, which was greater in the delay judgment condition. (2) Learning- testing experience could reduce the monitoring bias in the delay judgment condition. (3) The participants with learning- testing experience allocated more attention to interference items during the second study round than the first one. (4) The participants spending more time in the second study round allocated more attention to interference items and thus overcome the proactive interference effect completely.
In conclusion, these results indicated that the learning- testing experience with proactive interference could enhance the awareness of its effects and allow individuals to adjust their learning and retrieval strategies in order to reduce the effects in a appropriate way.