What Are The Types Of Memories And How Do They Work?

This post was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.

Memory is innate within all humans yet tends to decrease as we age. It is the process with which we utilize our brains to process, store, and ultimately to recall information and experiences from the past. There are many types of memory, although when we think of this seemingly abstract concept, we only think of long and short-term memory, but the truth is that our fascinating brains process knowledge using diverse processes.

Here we’ll get into the nooks and crannies of how we can remember the smell of our childhood homes and cram for tests hours before and still remember a large amount of information.

Are Memories Reliable?

It’s difficult to believe that humans can be unreliable narrators of their own lives. Still, the truth is our brains don’t always capture memories as accurately as we think, no matter how crisply we remember them. However, research has demonstrated that we may not be able to trust our own memories as heavily as we think. In fact, during one study, researchers managed to convince innocent people that they had committed serious crimes as adolescents.

Sensory Memory

The formation of memories tends to begin with sensory memory, and it is the process through which we interpret our surroundings through sight, smell, touch, sound, and taste. When sensory memory is associated with an event, it then becomes another type of memory.

Short-Term Memory

Short-term memory is what helps people recall a small amount of information for a brief period, precisely about 30 seconds. An example of short-term memory is remembering a phone number after it was dictated for you.

Working Memory

Similar to short-term memory, working memory takes it one step further and makes it so that you can alter information. Examples of this are remembering a recipe or solving a mathematical equation.

Long-Term Memory

You might be surprised to know that long-term memory is not just made up of your childhood memories. They can involve memories that surpass short-term memory; in other words, any memory that makes it past the initial 30 seconds gets stored in this mental space. There are ways to improve this kind of memory, especially in aging adults. Check out BetterHelp to gain some more insight.

Explicit Long-Term Memory

Explicit long-term memory can be divided into two separate categories but generally includes information regarding events, knowledge of things you learn, and facts about your own life.

Episodic Memory: Autobiographical facts such as your childhood or other personal facts

Semantic Memory: Anything you know about the world surrounding you is considered semantic memory, for instance, learning about how the heart pumps blood through your body in biology class.

Implicit Long-Term Memory

Implicit long-term memory is when a specific memory influences your behavior, but you are not consciously aware of it. This type of memory can also be divided into two categories, including:

Procedural Memory: This may be what some people refer to as muscle memory. It helps you go about your day completing tasks you may have once learned but have now become second nature, such as driving.

Priming: You might remember priming if you learned about Pavlov’s dogs. It is a memory that triggers an immediate response, such as raising your hand to answer a question in class or reacting to a specific facial expression.

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