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Retroactive is an important word to know if you are taking psychology, government, law, or business courses. It's an adjective and in its most technical sense, it means that some current change also affects the past, for instance,
Memory Peg: "Retro" is a Latin prefix meaning "back" or "backward." Thus anything that gets labeled "retroactive" has to have an effect on times past.
For a visual image of retroactive—and indeed for the prefix "retro" in general—imagine someone looking backward.
Specialized Use in Psychology: If you have ever studied something in the morning, thought you really understood it, and discovered by the next day that the information had become vague and muddled in your memory, then you have experienced what psychologists call retroactive interference. In other words, new memories came rushing into your brain and got in the way of memories formed during a previous time.
The good news is that you can avoid retroactive interference by
On the Less Technical Side: The word has branched out in its uses and can also refer to feelings, attitudes, or behaviors that reach back in time, for instance,
My husband is as good as gold, and I know he loves me more than anything. But somehow I cannot get over my fierce retroactive jealousy. I keep thinking he still loves the girl he wanted to marry before she dumped him and he met me on the rebound.
1. Given what you know about the word "retroactive," which of these sentences uses the word correctly:
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Last update of this page: March 22, 2014