Human cognitive neuroscience seminar
Speaker: Jamie McGhee (PhD Candidate in Psychology, The University of Edinburgh)
Title: Healthy forgetting and long-term memory: Interference of consolidation or temporal distinctiveness?
Abstract: Engaging with mentally effortful tasks immediately preceding or following new learning have been seen to increase forgetting. These notable declines in long-term memory retention have been attributed to the presence of interference which disrupts processes crucial to successful remembering. Theoretical accounts of forgetting diverge in the processes they believe are deeply rooted in forgetting (i.e. consolidation, retrieval) and the possible underlying mechanisms which result in their disruption (i.e. division of consolidative resources, temporal indistinctiveness at retrieval). Whilst prominent accounts of forgetting fundamentally differ, many studies exploring the effects of interference have fallen short in providing unique supportive evidence for one account specifically. In the absence of adequate research which does not neglect key assumptions from opposing perspectives, it is unclear what underlying processes are more heavily implicated in the process of forgetting.
In this talk, two studies will be discussed which aim to break this theoretical impasse. Across these studies, the accountability of two key interference-based theories of forgetting (i.e. consolidation interference, temporal interference) will be directly evaluated. More specifically, we will see how well each account can explain patterns of forgetting across groups of neurologically intact older adults within a unique paradigm. Within this paradigm, participants learned lists of words which were preceded and followed by 9-minute delay intervals consisting of minimal interference (i.e. wakeful rest) or interference (i.e. Spot-the-Difference task). We will see how consistent declines in memory performance due to post-study task engagement lend unique support for consolidation interference accounts of forgetting. While such findings suggest that retrieval interference is not a primary catalyst of forgetting, we will discuss additional details which may signal its continued relevance.