(3) Interference. The greater the interference with learning, the more
complete will be the process of forgetting. Interference will be caused by one of three
mental processes-- retroactive, proactive, or memory trace.
(a) Retroactive process. The retroactive process occurs when skills or
knowledges learned afterwards interfere with the original learned material. This could
be evident when the original material is a highly technical unit on skin diseases.
Following instruction, another highly technical unit on respiratory diseases is taught.
Following the respiratory disease unit, the unit on skin diseases is tested. Because of
the delay in testing the first unit and the highly technical nature of both units, the second
would likely interfere with the first.
(b) Proactive process. The proactive process occurs when skills or
knowledges learned earlier interfere with the learning of new material. This might
happen when a person who has had instruction in learning to speak French attempts
learning Spanish vocabulary. This interference is caused by the fact that many French
words are very similar to Spanish words which have the same meaning. Earlier
instruction in another language, such as Greek, may not cause any problems because
the vocabulary is very different.
(c) Memory trace process. The mind may distort memory. Memory
trace distortion occurs because mental or physical practice of a skill or knowledge is not
always corrected when practice occurs some length of time after the original instruction.
A skill or knowledge may be recalled with errors. Then every time the learning is
recalled with these errors, the mind is quicker to accept the faulty practice as correct.
More errors may even be added and compound the problem. At any point, the problem
can be corrected by an expert monitoring practice or by relearning the entire procedure
correctly. For the medical practitioner, it is vital that memory trace be eliminated.
(a) Reinforcement in Army training. Reinforcement is the rewarding of
desirable behavior and/or punishment for undesirable behavior. Applied to Army
training, punishment for lessons not learned or skills not mastered usually comes in the
form of failing a unit or a course, recycling through the same course again, loss of
promotion rights, or other similar consequences. Rewards might be passing a course,
praise by instructors, better assignments, or anything valued by the student. By far,
instructor approval is the most frequently used reinforcement. Rewards are more
effective than punishments. While students are learning a new skill, reinforcement
should be given continuously for each improvement in learning the skill. After the skill is
mastered, reinforcement should still be given occasionally.