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J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2000 Mar;26(2):336-58.

Working-memory capacity, proactive interference, and divided attention: limits on long-term memory retrieval.

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Department of Psychology, Georgia State University, Atlanta 30303-3083, USA.


Two experiments examined how individual differences in working-memory capacity (WM) relate to proactive interference (PI) susceptibility. We tested high and low WM-span participants in a PI-buildup task under single-task or dual-task ("load") conditions. In Experiment 1, a finger-tapping task was imposed during encoding and retrieval of each list; in Experiment 2, tapping was required during encoding or retrieval. In both experiments, low spans showed greater PI than did high spans under no load, but groups showed equivalent PI under divided attention. Load increased PI only for high spans, suggesting they use attention at encoding and retrieval to combat PI. In Experiment 2, only low spans showed a dual-task cost on List 1 memory, before PI built up. Results indicate a role for attentional processing, perhaps inhibitory in nature, at encoding and retrieval, and are discussed with respect to theories of WM and prefrontal cortex function.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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