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The effect of different interpolated activities on retroaction in a verbal learning experiment Ross, Dorothea M.


The purpose of this research was to investigate a methodological problem in the area of retroactive interference. Retroactive interference was defined as a decrement in retention resulting from an activity, usually a learning activity, interpolated between an original learning activity and a later measure of retention. Specifically, the problem was whether retroactive interference would occur, and in what amounts, when non-learning activities of increasing intensity were interpolated between the original learning material and a later measure of retention. Intensity was defined in terms of rate of manipulation and degree of complexity of a motor task. Certain relevant studies were discussed in terms of experimental variables that have been shown-to be functionally related to retroactive interference. One theoretical system, the perseveration theory, was considered briefly in connection with the intensity factor. Following the traditional retroaction paradigm, the general procedure was as follows: there were seven groups of subjects, an experimental group and six control groups. The original learning for all subjects consisted of a paired-associate list composed of nonsense syllables as stimuli and meaningful verbal materials as responses: the interpolated activities included a paired-associate list, a rest interval, a color-naming activity, and four systematic variations of a motor task along an intensity continuum. Retention was measured in terms of the number of correct anticipations made by the subject on the first relearning trial (recall), and in terms of the number of trials required by the subject to reach the criterion on the original learning material (relearning). The amount and the direction of retroaction that occurred in each case was measured. Both the amount and the direction of retroaction differed significantly among the various groups. The bearing of these results upon the perseveration theory, and particularly upon the expectation which follows from it that retroactive interference varies with the intensity of the interpolated activity, was discussed. It was concluded that comparisons between retroaction experiments should be made with extreme caution if the equivalence of the interpolated activities has not been empirically established..

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