Proactive and Retroactive Interference

Interference theory refers to the occurrence of interaction between new learned material and past behavior, memories or thoughts that cause disturbance in retrieval of the memory. Based on the disturbance caused in attempts to retrieve past or latest memories, interference have been classified into two different kinds.

Differences between Proactive and Retroactive Interference

Differences between Proactive and Retroactive Interference
Proactive Interference Retroactive Interference
The form of interference where old memories restrain the capacity to remember new information is called Proactive Interference. The form of interference where new memories restrain the capacity to old information is called Retroactive Interference. 
Proactive interference occurs when past memories hold back an individual from retaining new memories. Retroactive interference occurs when new memories hold back an individual from retaining old memories. 
Competition is what prevents recall of the memory in proactive interference. Along with competition, there is also unlearning in retroactive interference.
It has been hypothesized that, "Forgetting working memories would be non-existent if not for proactive interference." Retroactive interference has helped to attain a decisive conclusion to a long going debate that, "Forgetting is not simply a failure or weakness of the memory system, but rather an integral part of our stored knowledge repertoire."
Rest time doesn't seem to play any factor in affecting the occurrence of proactive interference. In various experiments, it has been seen that participants do not seem to experience much retroactive interference when made to recall the first world list after a certain amount of rest time.
Example 1: 

You took Spanish classes a while ago. And now, while trying to learn French, you tend to use Spanish vocabulary in the French class, thus hindering your ability to learn French.

Example 1: 

You have been taking French lessons recently. You try to speak in Spanish, which you learned previously, but you are unable to do so because French words keeps jumping in front of you and your memory is all jumbled up.

Example 2: 

You learn a variety of dance moves. You keep trying to do previously learned dance moves while trying to repeat the latest dance move you learned.

Example 2: 

You learn a variety of dance moves. You are only able to remember the latest move.

Similarities Between Proactive and Retroactive Interference

Even though proactive and retroactive interference are exactly in contrast when it comes to their occurrence and the manner in which they occur, there are quite a few similarities between the two.

  • The first similarity between the two is that both of them are based on the Interference theory.
  • The context in which proactive and retroactive interference occur are quite similar. For instance, trying to memorize similar lists of words could cause both proactive interference. If you're trying to remember the new list having just read two lists simultaneously, chances are that you will mix up the old and new list, and thus proactive interference occurs.. Likewise, if you're trying to recall the first list having read two lists simultaneously, there's a good chance for retroactive interference to occur.
  • Competition and association of memories is involved in both of these interference. Interaction between old and new memory is what causes the occurrence of interference, either proactive or retroactive.