Types of memory and their functions (2023)

memoryis the ability to store and retrieve information when people need it. The four general types of memory are sensory memory, short-term memory, working memory, and long-term memory. Long-term memory can be further categorized as either implicit (unconscious) or explicit (conscious).

Memories make us who we are as individuals, but we don't think much about how memory works. It is a phenomenon that involves several processes and can be divided into different types, each of which plays an important role in storing and retrieving information.

types of memory

Researchers and experts have debated the classification of memories for years. Many experts agree that there are four main categories of memory. All other memory types tend to fall under these four main categories.

Memory is also sometimes divided into stages and processes. People who only divide memory into two different types,implicit and explicit memory, believe that other types of memory, such as sensory, short-term, and long-term memories, are not types of memory butstages of memory.

sensory memory

sensory memoryallows you to remember sensory information after stimulation has ended. Researchers who classify memory as stages rather than types believe that all other memories begin with the formation of sensory memories. Typically, your sensory memory only retains information for short periods of time. Remembering the feeling of a person's touch or a sound you heard passing by is sensory memory.

When a sensory experience keeps coming back and you start making other memories of it, the sensory experience stops living in your sensory memory. It can be moved to your short term memory or more permanently to your long term memory.

There are three types of sensory memory:iconic, which is obtained by seeing; echoic, which is auditory; and haptics, i.e. by touch.

short-term memory

As the name suggestsshort-term memoryallows you to get specific information about anything for a short time. Short-term memory is not as fleeting as sensory memory, but it is also not as permanent as long-term memory. Short-term memory is also known as primary or active memory.

Research estimates that short-term memory only lasts about 30 seconds.When you read a line in a book or a series of numbers that you need to remember, your short-term memory is at work.

You can retain information in your short-term memory by repeating the information. For example, if you need to remember a series of numbers, you can keep repeating them until you've entered them. However, if it asks you to remember those numbers about 10 minutes after entering them, you most likely can't.

working memory

Working memory is a type of memory that encompasses the immediate and small amount of information that a person actively uses when performing cognitive tasks.

While some experts consider working memory to be a fourth type of memory, working memory can fall under the classification of short-term memory, and in many cases is even used interchangeably.

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(Video) Types of Memory | Short Term & Working Memory, Long Term Memory (Explicit and Implicit)

long-term memory

We store a large part of our memories in ourlong-term memory. Any memory that we can still remember after 30 seconds could be classified as long-term memory. These reminders have different meanings - from remembering the name of a friendly face at your favorite coffee shop to important information like a close friend's birthday or your home address.

There is no limit to how much and how long our long-term memory can store. We can further divide long-term memory into two main categories: explicit and implicit long-term memory.

Explicit long-term memory

Explicit long-term memories are memories that we consciously and intentionally took time to form and remember. Explicit storage holds information like your best friend's birthday or your phone number. It often includes important milestones in your life, such as: B. Childhood events, graduation dates, or academic work you learned in school.

In general, explicit memories can be episodic or semantic. Episodic memories are formed from specific episodes in your life (e.g. the first time you rode a bike or your first day of school).

Semantic memories are general facts and information that you have absorbed over the years. For example, if you remember a random fact while completing a crossword puzzle, pull that memory out of your semantic memory.

conditions such asAlzheimer's diseasestrongly influence explicit memories.

Implicit long-term memory

We don't form implicit memories as consciously as we do explicit ones. Implicit memories form unconsciously and can affect the way a person thinks and behaves. Implicit memory often comes into play when we are learning motor skills like walking or riding a bike. If you learned to ride a bike when you were 10 and don't pick it up again until you are 20, implicit memory will help you remember how to ride it.

Writing by hand boosts brain activity and fine motor skills, studies show

Why do we have different types of memory?

Every type of memory we have is important, and they all have different functions. Your short-term memory allows you to process and understand the information immediately. When you read and understand a paragraph in a book, your short-term memory is at work.

Your most valuable and important memories are kept in your long-term memory. Your long-term memory makes it easier to walk, talk, ride a bike, and engage in daily activities. It also allows you to remember important dates and facts.

In your daily activities, you probably rely the most on your long-term memory. From waking up and brushing your teeth to boarding the right bus to commute to work, recalling all of these steps is made easier by your long-term memory.

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How long-term memory retrieval works

How are memories formed?

Memories are made in three distinct phases. It starts with coding. Coding is how external stimuli and information enter your brain. This can be done through any of your five senses.

The next stage is storage, in which the information that is recorded is stored either briefly, as in sensory and short-term memory, or more permanently, as in long-term memory.

The final stage is recall. Recall is our ability to retrieve the memory we made from where it is stored. These processes can also transform sensory memory into short-term memory or short-term memory into long-term memory.

Reasons why people forget

Can you improve your memory?

It's commonplace to hear people complain about itbad memory. When we try to remember information that we encoded and stored and we can't, then our memory has failed us. The good news is that it is possible to improve your memory and make the process of encoding, storing and retrieving information more seamless. Here are a fewTips that might help you improve your memory:

  • Take care of your body. Taking care of your body by eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep will improve your healthbrain healthwhich helps you process and recall memories better.
  • Train your mind. There are a fewactivitiesandpuzzleYou could do to give your mind a great workout.
  • Use calendars and planners. Clear up the memory space in your brain by using calendars andPlanerto remember the little things like shopping lists and meeting times.
  • Stay mentally active. Reading, writing, and constant study help you stay mentally active, which can improve your memory.

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5 sources

(Video) Types of Memory

Verywell Mind uses only quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to back up the facts in our articles. Read ourseditorial processto learn more about how we fact-check our content and keep it accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Stangor C, Wallinga J.9. 1 Memories as Types and Stages. In:Introduction to Psychology 1st Canadian Edition. BCcampus; 2014.

  2. Camina E, Güell F.The Neuroanatomical, Neurophysiological, and Psychological Foundations of Memory: Current Models and Their Origins.Front Pharmacol. 2017;8:438. doi:10.3389/fphar.2017.00438

  3. Cascella M, Al Khalili Y. Short-term memory impairment. In: StatPearls.StatPearls publication;2021.

  4. Queensland Brain Institute.types of memory.

  5. Harvard Health.7 ways to keep your memory sharp at any age.

Types of memory and their functions (1)

VonToketemu Ohwovoriole
Toketemu has been a multimedia storyteller for four years. Her expertise focuses primarily on mental health and women's health issues.

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