The locus of proactive interference in visual working memory.

Roy Shoval, Tal Makovski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent studies showed that proactive interference (PI) impairs visual working memory (WM), as performance is better when the memory items are unique rather than repeated throughout the experiment. To scrutinize the mechanisms driving this effect, we tested how it affects the stages of encoding, retention, and testing. Experiment 1 instructed participants to make speeded responses and found that reaction time was slower in the repeated than in the unique condition, suggesting memory source confusion during testing. Experiment 2 showed that a retention interval manipulation did not affect the magnitude of the PI effect. Finally, Experiment 3 found that the PI effect did not increase when the encoding interval was short. Instead, the difference between the repeated and unique conditions was reduced, probably because the increased familiarity with the memory items in the repeated condition facilitated consolidation. Taken together, these results suggest that the main locus of PI in visual WM is during testing and that encoding and retaining information in visual WM are hardly affected by no longer needed information. Consequently, these data support the involvement of long-term memory in the effect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)704-715
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 American Psychological Association


  • encoding
  • proactive interference
  • retention
  • testing stage
  • visual working memory


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