Distinctions in the Long Term Memory

Memory is the ability to keep information or to recover information about previous experiences, and this function is performed by the brain. This ability is divided into three essential areas namely: short term memory, long term memory and the sensory memory. Sensory memory acts as a recipient of stimuli gotten from our body senses. The information is then passed to the short term memory but it is filtered down to the most important information that the brain needs to attend to at that moment. Long term and short term memories are basically the most important areas in the human memory.

Short-term memory is the capacity to hold information and this it does in an active and readily available state. The information held here that from sensory input and information that was being worked on in the long term memory.

Long-term memory is usually stored as meaning and this memory has a bigger capacity that the short term memory meaning that the information stored here can last up to several days.

In the long-term memory, we have several distinctions. For instance there are two types of memory in here: episodic memory and semantic memory. Episodic memory represents our memory of things in a serial and sequential form. From this type of memory, we are able to put together happenings in our life at a certain point. Semantic memory, on the other end, records facts, skills and concepts that we learn in our daily life.

Episodic memories are connected with a specific time and place. If someone asks you to recall events or happenings of a certain time, you will be heavily relying on this memory to get that information. It is like a book that contains, just as the name suggests, episodes of our life.

On the other hand, semantic memory refers to our general knowledge of the world and all of the facts we know. It allows us to know facts that exist and concepts. For instance, knowing someone’s name or the president of a certain country or better still, somebody’s birthday will require you to use this memory. This memory, unlike episodic, is not tied down to a certain period of time or to certain events.

Apart from the time and place difference, these two also differ when it comes to their neural basis. This is because semantic memory has a different neural basis when compared to its counterpart. Brain-damaged patients who have great difficulties remembering their own recent personal experiences often can access their permanent knowledge quite readily. Thus, episodic memory and semantic memory seem to represent independent capacities.

Evidence of the differences and the associations in these memories can be seen in cases of amnesia.How they are related and how they differ is clearly seen here since both memories are dependent on the integrity of the medical temporal lobe.

In the long term memory, we also have implicit and explicit memories. Implicit memory is a type of memory whereby an experience that happened in the past helps in the performance of another task without awareness of the past experience (Schacter, 1987).

Priming provides evidence for this memory. Priming is a process whereby the participants being tested improve in the performance of tasks that they had subconsciously prepared themselves for (Graf & Mandler, 1984).

On the other hand, explicit memories consist of our memories from events that have occurred in the external world. Information stored in here is time and place specific and associations are done with previous related stimuli or experiences.

Therefore, explicit memories unlike the can be remembered and recalled, and rely on previous experiences and knowledge. In addition, explicit memories involve the temporal lobe.

There are many still other distinctions in the long term memory in our brains and they aid in ensuring that each information is stored where it is expected to be so. They therefore aid in enhancing our memory capability.


O’Brien, D., How to Develop a Perfect Memory (Headline Book Publishing: London, 1994).

Scruggs, T. E., & Mastropieri, M. A., “Mnemonic instruction for students with learning disabilities: What it is and what it does,” Learning Disabilities Quarterly, 1990, vol. 13, 271-280.

Tulving, E., Schacter, D.L., & Stark, H.A.” Priming effects in word-fragment completion are independent of recognition memory” Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 8(4), 336-342.1982.

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