Have you ever tasted the food and realized it tastes like your grandmother’s? Or have you walked into a small room and felt you had already been there?
This might sound like déjà vu or a twin sense, but it is much more intriguing. Implicit and explicit memories are a fascinating part of psychology that I will discuss in this article.
What Is Implicit Memory?
Implicit or non-declarative memory is a type of long-term memory expressed unconsciously and unintentionally. It refers to our ability to learn and remember information without conscious awareness.
Such memory is often expressed through performance, habits, and skills. Implicit memories are typically demonstrated through performance, habits, and skills and are acquired through repeated exposure to a particular stimulus or experience.
Examples of Implicit Memory
There are many examples of implicit memory that we experience in our daily lives. Here are a few:
1. Riding a bike: Once you learn how to ride a bike, it becomes an automatic process that does not require conscious effort. This is because the skill is stored in your implicit memory.
2. Typing on a keyboard: If you are a proficient typist, you can type without having to think about each keystroke consciously. This is because the motor skills required for typing are stored in your implicit memory.
3. Playing an instrument: Musicians often develop implicit memories for their notes, chords, and rhythms. This allows them to play music effortlessly and without conscious thought.
4. Driving a car: Experienced drivers can navigate the roads without consciously thinking about every turn or action. This is because driving skills are stored in implicit memory.
5. Emotional responses: We may have implicit memories of emotional responses to certain stimuli or experiences. For example, the smell of a particular food may trigger a positive emotional response because we associate it with happy memories from our past.
These are just a few examples of implicit memory. Implicit memories are involved in many aspects of our daily lives and are essential for performing skills, forming habits, and adapting to new environments.
What Is Explicit Memory?
Explicit memory, declarative memory, involves conscious awareness and deliberate recall of past events, information, and experiences. It refers to memories that can be intentionally retrieved and consciously expressed or declared.
Examples of Explicit Memory
There are several examples of explicit memory, including
1. Remembering your wedding day: This is an example of episodic memory, as it involves recalling a specific event at a particular time and place.
2. Recalling the capital of a country: This is an example of semantic memory, as it involves recalling a fact that is not tied to any specific event or experience.
3. Studying for an exam: When you study, you intentionally try to learn and remember information for a specific purpose. This involves using your explicit memory to encode and store new information.
4. Reciting a poem or song lyrics: When you recite a poem or song lyrics, you intentionally recall information from your explicit memory.
5. Remembering your childhood home address: This is an example of episodic memory, as it involves recalling a specific event (your childhood) and a specific piece of information (your home address).
6. Recalling a conversation you had with a friend: This is an example of episodic memory, as it involves recalling a specific event (the conversation) that occurred at a particular time and place.
Difference Between Implicit and Explicit Memory
Implicit and explicit memory are two types of long-term memory that differ in their characteristics, underlying brain mechanisms, and ways of retrieval. Here are some of the key differences between implicit and explicit memory:
|Implicit Memory||Explicit Memory|
|Definition||Implicit memory refers to the unconscious memory of skills and habits.||Explicit memory refers to conscious memory of facts and events.|
|Retrieval||Retrieval happens automatically and unconsciously.||Retrieval requires conscious effort and awareness.|
|Awareness||Is not consciously accessible, meaning we cannot easily describe what we remember.||Is consciously accessible, meaning we can easily retrieve and describe what we remember.|
|Types of Information||Stores procedural memories, such as riding a bike or typing on a keyboard.||Stores declarative memories, such as names, dates, and facts.|
|Neural Processing||Is primarily processed in the basal ganglia and cerebellum.||Is processed in the hippocampus and associated cortical areas.|
Grasping these distinctions is crucial in comprehending the mechanisms of memory and creating efficacious approaches to enhance and restore it.
Factors That Affect Implicit and Explicit Memory
Several factors can affect implicit and explicit memory. Here are some examples:
1. Age: The capacity to process and recall implicit and explicit memory might deteriorate as we grow older, owing to alterations in the brain that can impair memory function.
2. Sleep: The brain enhances and facilitates the retention of memories through consolidation during sleep, thereby improving their accessibility and strengthening both implicit and explicit memory.
3. Stress: Elevated stress levels can negatively impact implicit and explicit memory as the hormones associated with stress can impede the brain’s capacity to store and recollect information.
4. Nutrition: Consuming a well-balanced diet that contains essential nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and antioxidants can aid in promoting implicit and explicit memory.
5. Exercise: Studies indicate that consistent physical activity can enhance implicit and explicit memory by boosting blood flow to the brain, leading to better cognitive function.
6. Environmental factors: Noise, distractions, and interruptions can negatively impact implicit and explicit memory. Creating an environment free of distractions and noise enhances memory function.
How Do Implicit and Explicit Memory Work Together?
Implicit and explicit memory are distinct memory types that work in tandem to aid us in navigating our surroundings. Implicit memory oversees automatic and unconscious memory procedures, whereas explicit memory oversees conscious and deliberate memory procedures. Here are some examples of how these two types of memory can work together:
1. Learning a New Skill
In acquiring a new skill, we typically depend on explicit memory to consciously comprehend and retain the steps involved. Yet, as we repeat the skill, it gradually becomes automatic and is stored in our implicit memory.
To illustrate this, take the case of learning to play a musical instrument. Initially, we may have to think about finger positions and notes consciously. But as we practice more, the movements become automatic and are stored in our implicit memory, enabling us to play more smoothly and with reduced conscious effort.
2. Emotional Memories
Emotions can also influence the interaction between implicit and explicit memory. For instance, in a highly emotional event, the emotional aspect may be stored in our implicit memory.
On the other hand, explicit memory may retain the specific aspects of the experience. Consequently, we can recollect the occurrence with emotional intensity and distinctiveness.
3. Priming Effects
The term “priming” denotes the effect of a stimulus (e.g., an image or word) on our reaction to a subsequent stimulus. For instance, viewing a dog’s picture can increase the likelihood of associating the word “bark” with dogs.
Implicit memory is thought to underlie this effect, as our prior exposure to the stimulus has prepared us to react in a specific manner. Nonetheless, explicit memory may also play a role, as we can consciously identify and articulate the connection between the two stimuli.
So Which Type of Memory Dominates?
It varies according to the circumstances. When we consciously try to remember something, like studying for a test or recalling a phone number, explicit memory tends to dominate. However, implicit memory tends to take precedence when we engage in activities that require motor skills or muscle memory, such as playing an instrument or driving a car.
There are instances where both forms of memory can be employed simultaneously. For instance, when learning to play a new song on the guitar, you may initially utilize explicit memory to remember the chords and notes. However, with continued practice, your muscle memory takes over, enabling you to play the song without conscious effort.
With this said, it’s important to recognize that implicit memory is a fundamental element of daily functioning in everyone. Although explicit memory is the more familiar term, implicit memory is integral to our everyday lives, reinforcing things like language and spatial reasoning. In other words, even if you don’t think about it every day, your implicit memory impacts almost everything you do.
- Lukasik, K. M., Waris, O., Soveri, A., Lehtonen, M., & Laine, M. (2019). The Relationship of Anxiety and Stress With Working Memory Performance in a Large Non-depressed Sample. Frontiers in Psychology, 10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00004
- Luethi, M., Meier, B. H., & Sandi, C. (2008). Stress effects on working memory, explicit memory, and implicit memory for neutral and emotional stimuli in healthy men. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 2. https://doi.org/10.3389/neuro.08.005.2008
- Ward, E., Berry, C. P. L., & Shanks, D. R. (2013). Age effects on explicit and implicit memory. Frontiers in Psychology, 4. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00639