Explicit vs implicit memory

        Psychologists distinguish between two types of long term memory: explicit and implicit memory. Explicit memory emerge when we try to remember something, this type of memory is also known as declarative memory since you can consciously recall and explain the information. Implicit memory on the other hand represents things that we don’t purposely try to remember or store.

 I.Types of explicit memory

      Endel Tulving proposed a distinction between two kinds of explicit memory:

         1-Semantic memory: it refers to the part of memory that stores information that are not drawn from personal experience it includes things that are common knowledge, such as the name of colors and the sound of letters.

           2-Episodic memory: stores personally experienced events or episodes.

     II.Types of implicit memory

       We owe the separation of implicit memory to Squire who distinguished declarative memory from various kinds of nondeclarative memory “implicit”. Nondeclarative memory comprises:

           1-Procedural memory: it has to do with remembering how things are done. It includes things like how to tie your shoelaces and how to swim.

      2-priming: the process of activating associations in memory unconsciously.  It is a technique in which the introduction of one stimulus influences how people respond to a subsequent stimulus. Let us say for example that we are talking about food and then I gave you the word “SO_P” well in this case you will be more likely to say “SOUP”. However if we were talking about something like germophobia you will be more likely to say that this world represent “SOAP”.

        3-Simple classical conditioning: this represents the behaviors that are learned and memorized due to classical conditioning

4-Nonassociative learning: it represents the type of learning that does not require any reinforcement or punishment. And in this context we can find habituation, represents the decrease of a certain behavior learned by non associative learning, and sensitization,represents the increase of a certain behavior learned by non associative learning.


  • Larry R. Squire (1992).Declarative and nondeclarative  memory: multiple brain systems supporting learning and memory. Journal of cognitive neuroscience volume 4, number 3.

  • Tulving, E. (1972). Episodic and semantic memory. New York: academic Press.

  • Robert J. Sternberg (2008). Cognitive Psychology. Fifth edition.

See Also:

Ebbinghaus' experiment of memory

encoding storage and retrieval

sensory, short term and long term memory

Cognitive Revolution

Working memory

the levels of processing model

The process of forgeting

the seven sins of memory