Understanding Memory Interference


Recent studies conducted at Iowa State University have begun to show that it is feasible to alter memories by providing people with new information. Assistant professor of psychology, Jason Chan states that “if you reactivate a memory by retrieving it, that memory becomes susceptible to changes again, and if at that time you give people new contradictory information that can make the original memory much harder to retrieve later.”

Further studies published in The National Academy of Sciences show that declarative memory is most effective to controlled influence. It is this type of memory that is used when you consciously recall information that can be verbally described such as what you ate for breakfast.

Researchers at Iowa State University found that the time new information is presented makes a huge impact on the retrieval of the original memory. If the new information was presented immediately after the original memory then the memory could be strongly altered. However, interestingly, the original memory stayed almost perfectly intact when information was presented 48 hours later. Professor Chan believes that there is a six-hour period before a memory is reconsolidated after recall and then cannot be changed. However during this six-hour period, a memory can be interfered with and altered.

Further studies need to be conducted to pin point the exact periods of time that are most critical for memory consolidation, but this research provides information into human memory and potential neural processes that are involved in how memory works.

Anya Baroff

Anya Baroff received a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience and has done extensive travelling to learn about nutrition, health and science around the world. Her love of understanding the unknown and new scientific discovery is what drives her eagerness to learn!