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Implicit and Explicit Memory

Page history last edited by Vince Cooley 9 years, 8 months ago


Human beings store information in their memory in two different ways.  These different storage techniques are called implicit memory and explicit memory.  These different types of memory are clearly distinct, as we will explore.


Explicit Memory

Explicit memories are memories that we retrieve consciously.  This type of memory includes our memories that occurred in our lives (episodic memory) and factual information about the world in which we live (semantic memory).  Both of these two categories of explicit memory must be retrieved intentionally.  In other words, we do not express these memories unconsciously as we do with implicit memory.  Humans store explicit memory by encoding stimuli consciously for later retrieval.  Explicit memory is often associative, that is, we tend to link our explicit memories together in a way in which we relate memories to one another in a way that makes sense to us.


Implicit Memory

Memory that we store and retrieve unconsciously is called implicit memory.  Implicit memory aids us in performing tasks that we don't have to think about doing.  Examples of these would be typing on a keyboard or riding a bike.  Once we learn how to do these tasks, we retain them in our memory and they occur without our conscious retrieval of them.  Some supporting evidence of implicit memory is the effect priming has on different tasks.  Priming is the subconscious preparation of a subject to a task.  For example, when a subject is primed with a word (for instance, table), then presented with a portion of that word (say, tab-) and asked to fill in the rest of that portion, they are more likely to answer with the word with which they were primed than another word.  This demonstrates that there is some form of memory that we are not consciously aware of.



Some of the evidence we have supporting the difference between implicit and explicit memory comes from studies of subjects with amnesia.  A major case study of an amnesiac was done on a subject named Henry Gustav Molaison (better known as HM), who became unable to form new long-term memories after an experimental surgery in the 1950s.  One study involving HM required him to draw a figure while looking at its reflection in a mirror.  HM showed improvement every time he was presented this task, but when asked if he had done this task before, he would not remember doing it.  This study demonstrated that though HM's explicit memory was damaged, his implicit memory remained intact as he retained motor skills previously practiced.




Different Types of Memory

A brief overview of the different types of memory we posses, including implicit and explicit memory.


Implicit and Explicit Memory Comparison

A comparison of implicit and explicit memory with diagrams of which types of memories are stored where.


Positive Priming

An article describing the power priming can have when applied to life.


Alzheimer's Memory Encoding

A study on implicit and explicit memory encoding on subjects with Alzheimer's disease using fMRI scans.


Procedural Memory

A page that explains procedural memory, an implicit memory process that aids us in our everyday lives.


Memory Development in Children

This link describes when explicit and implicit memory develops in children.


Semantic and Episodic Memory Encoding

A study exploring the semantic and episodic encoding and retrieval.


Implicit Memory Effects

A page that outlines implicit and explicit memory, but also explains some of the effects of implicit memory near the end.


Explicit Memory Degradation in Intoxicated Subjects

This link shows how intoxicated subjects had similar implicit memory efficiency while having a degraded explicit memory efficiency.


Neurological Activity and Implicit Memory

Reports of the findings of fMRI scans with repeated photographs in relation to implicit memory.




Page developed by Vince Cooley. Email: vincent.r.cooley@student.mercer.edu

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