We all know what memory is, and we all experience the effect and impact of our memories all day, every day. However, did you know that there were far more than just one type of memory?
Most people are aware of long-term and short-term memories, and will be able to reel off examples of memories from their early childhood, or examples of memories involving information gathered just a matter of minutes ago. However, these two memory types are just the tip of the iceberg, as scientists and psychologists have identified a full spectrum of seven types of memory we all experience as part of our everyday lives.
Memory plays a key role in IQ tests, and as such, it’s good to be aware (from a mindfulness perspective, if nothing else) of the types of memories we encounter within our minds. Let’s take a closer look at the seven memory types, and consider what they are and how they function.
Contrary to popular belief, short-term memory is actually very, very short indeed, lasting a maximum of thirty seconds. This type of memory stores information temporarily, and then transfers the necessary information into our long-term memory banks… or discards it altogether.
A little more complex than short-term memory, long-term memory extends from one minute ago… right the way back to our earliest years. Depending on how frequently we recall information from our long-term memory centres, the strength of the memory itself varies quite wildly.
Explicit memory is a type of long-term memory, which is remembered following conscious thought. For example, you consciously try to remember certain people’s names, phone numbers, or job titles, and mentally store them with a sense of purpose to be recalled later.
Episodic memories come under the category of explicit long-term memories. These relate to our personal lives – a favourite birthday, a first kiss, or the birth of a child, to give a few popular examples.
Interestingly, episodic memories are often considered quite unreliable. This is because they tend to be reconstructed and even unconsciously embellished over time, depending on how they are being recalled, and the context in which the recollection is taking place.
This type of memory accounts for the way we understand the world around us. For example, we know and ‘remember’ the capital city of France, the colour of the sky, and the way a dog sounds when it’s scared. Unlike episodic memories, we’re able to perfectly maintain the accuracy of these memories, although with old age, this can also decline and be lost in the mists of the mind.
Another type of long-term memory, implicit memories are those memories you don’t have to consciously work at to recollect. Famous examples would include riding a bike, or speaking a first language.
We all remember how to clean our teeth, tie our shoelaces, or drive our car. This is due to procedural memory, another type of long-term memory which involves repeated actions or procedures in our daily lives.