A partial resolution of the paradox of interference: the role of integrating knowledge.

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Abstract or Description

It has been noted that models of memory that posit retrieval interference imply that the more one knows about a topic, the harder it is to retrieve any one of these facts. Smith, Adams, and Schorr (Cognitive Psychology, 1978, 10, 438–464) regard this to be a paradox and postulate that people use world knowledge to integrate various facts about a concept and thereby avoid interference. Exploring this issue further in two experiments we discovered that integration of facts alleviates interference only when a person can perform his memory task by simply making a consistency judgment and can avoid the need to retrieve a specific fact. When foils force subjects to retrieve the specific assertion, the interference occurs among integrated facts as among unrelated facts. It appears that, when possible, subjects will judge whether they have seen a fact simply by judging if it is related to (consistent with) a theme they have studied. In other words, people judge themes rather than facts. Consistent with this interpretation, we found interference among themes; that is, the more themes were associated with a concept, the greater the interference.




Published In

Cognitive Psychology, 12, 4, 447-472.