Memory Interference

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Updated on Oct 11, 2013

Grade Level: 10th; Type: Biology/Neuroscieces


To determine which of the following will promote the greatest interference with memory input: the recitation of words, such as a conversation or listening to classical music or jazz or show tunes and popular songs.

  • What is memory?
  • What is short term memory?
  • What is long term memory?
  • What is interference?
  • What is the theory of Interference?
  • What is retroactive interference?
  • What is fading?
  • What is distortion?
  • What are mnemonic devices?
  • What can you do to improve information processing?
  • Where is the memory function located in the brain?
  • What were the Wilder Penfield discoveries and what did they tell us?

On the information level, the student will become acquainted with the current research on interference and its role in memory retention. One theory of why people forget events they have experienced are that other events prevents the original one from being remembered. In other words, events interfere with each other in memory. On a practical level, if interference is a problem, we can eliminate forgetting by removing interfering events. However, we must ask ourselves if there I another reason that we forget and that is was the material or information ever stored in our memory? In this project, we are going to investigate some of the variables that could serve to block the acquisition of information and or prevent the storage of information. There are definitely practical applications of our results. If we are to maximize retention of information, we must minimize those factors that inhibit or interfere with storage and retention.

As for the methodology of this project, this science fair project also serves to acquaint students with the essential processes of silencing, of researching techniques and learning about the importance of identifying dependent and independent variables, of proper and accurate data collection, of pictorial and or graphic presentation of data and of being able to make better judgments as to the validity and reliability of their findings. They become aware of the importance of the size of the sample population and whether the sample was truly representative of the group they are investigating. They learn about what researchers do and begin to replicate the process. In the process of researching, they become researchers.

  • Task cards
  • Recordings of a conversation
  • Classical music
  • Jazz
  • Show tunes
  • Ear phonesand a watch

  1. Gatherthe materials which you require for this project which will include the sets of instruction cards identifying mathematictasks, namely solving fourmath problems to be done while listeningto (a)a taped conversation,(b) a recording of classical, music, (c) a recording ofjazz, and(d) a recording of popular music or of a show tune.
  2. Copy the mathematical tasks provided below on cards for student use ,the student response sheet and Data Chart shown on the next page.
  3. Obtain eight friends from your class who will serve as subjects. You may have to settle for four. However, the larger the sample, the better the data and therefore the results.
  4. Describe the objective of the project and their task or missionin attempting to solve the problems while listening to ataped conversation and different types of music. Explain that they will be timedas to how long it took to completeeach task.
  5. Administer the tests.Ask the participants to note any reactions that they had to the test.
  6. After the tests ask the participants to their reactions.
  7. Analyzethe results and record them on the data chart.
  8. Write up you r report. Include all of the arm chair research as well as your bibliography. You may wish to include your reactions to this project.

Student Response Sheet


Grade level:


Accompanied by : Check one : Conversation Classical Music Jazz Show or Popular Music

Starting Time:

Ending Time:

Problem Work and Solution:

The Problem To Be Solved

You are on the west side of a river, with a fox, a duck, and a bag of corn. You must cross to the other side of the river, taking everything with you. However, you have only a very small boat, large enough to carry you, and one of your "traveling companions" at a time. There is no other way across. How do you get everything to the other side of the river, without anyone eating anyone else? (Assume none of them will eat the others if you are present. Also assume nothing runs away if you leave it alone.)

Terms/Concepts: Memory; Working memory; Interference; Fading; Retroactive interference; Distortion; Information processing; Sensory register


Dr. Muriel Gerhard (Ed.D.) is a retired educator with fifty seven years of experience in all aspects of public education. She has been a teacher, principal, administrator, college professor, researcher, grants writer, change agent and science editor. She is the author of several books on education used as college texts. These include the best selling Effective Teaching Strategies with the Behavioral Outcomes Approach and The Behavioral Outcomes Handbook for Teachers and Administrators. Presently she is a consultant in science education and curriculum development, a marriage and family therapist, a newspaper columnist and an author. Her latest book, recently published, is a memoir of sixty vignettes entitled "Now That I`m Dead, I Decided to Write this Book".

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