Memory Types

The human being has three essential types of memory: short-term memory, long-term memory and sensory memory. Short-term memory retains information for short periods of time and long-term memory has a greater temporality, usually transcending the passing of years.

Memory refers to different brain processes that are intended to interpret, store and retrieve information. In this sense, both short-term and long-term memory are involved in different cognitive processes that help shape learning, intelligence and memories.

short term memory

Known as active memory or secondary memory, it is responsible for processing sensory stimuli and converting them into information that will be stored for very short periods.

The duration of a stimulus in short-term memory does not exceed 40 seconds, while the number of stimuli that can be perceived ranges from two to seven stimuli.

Despite the short time in which the information is available in active memory, it has a great value in cognitive processes linked to logical reasoning and problem solving.

types of short-term memory

Short-term memory is divided into 4 subsystems that specialize in different types of stimuli:

  • Executive system : is responsible for regulating all processes of short-term memory.
  • Episodic store : it is the system in charge of processing various stimuli and converting them into a representation with visual, verbal, spatial and temporal information.
  • Phonological loop : it is the system in charge of retaining alphanumeric verbal information (letters and numbers).
  • Visuospatial agenda : it is the system that retains information in the form of images.

examples of short term memory

Short-term memory is constantly active. Some daily activities in which it intervenes are:

  • Remember names of people.
  • Remember addresses.
  • Remember figures or series of numbers (telephone numbers, car license plates).
  • Remember faces of people or specific images (the color of a car).

long term memory

It is the information storage system capable of retaining stimuli for periods of time ranging from hours to years.

The ability to store information and keep it immediately available without being forgotten depends on several factors:

  • The depth with which the stimulus was processed.
  • The associations that have been made to retain information (some people remember long series of numbers because they associate them in a particular way).
  • The number of times the information has been retrieved (the more times something is recalled or recapitulated, the more difficult it is to forget).

Long-term memory depends on short-term memory, since the latter is the gateway for stimuli that, if repeated regularly, become part of inactive memory.

types of long-term memory

Inactive or long-term memory is divided into two large systems:

explicit memory

Also called declarative memory, it is responsible for storing information that is consciously available. In turn, it is divided into two subcategories.

  • Episodic memory – Stores information about specific moments in time and space.
  • Semantic memory : retains general information, which allows a greater understanding of the world, even if the details are unknown.

Implicit or procedural memory

It is the system in charge of retaining information related to motor skills.

examples of long term memory

Some examples of the use of long-term memory that we make in everyday life are:

  • Recall an episode from childhood.
  • Remember that pressing a button can turn a device on or off.
  • Remember how to ride a bike after years of inactivity.

sensory memory

Sensory memory involves all the processes of encoding external stimuli for very short periods and selectively. In that sense, it can be confused with short-term memory, however, the information permanence period is much shorter, since it only lasts a few milliseconds.

Depending on the type of stimulus and its relevance, this information can be discarded or it can go into short-term memory, where it will remain for a few more seconds.

types of sensory memory

Sensory memory is subclassified into:

  • Iconic memory : is responsible for processing visual stimuli.
  • Echoic memory : auditory information process.
  • Olfactory Memory : Records odors.
  • Haptic memory : processes the information captured by the sense of touch.
  • Gustatory memory : registers flavors.

examples of sensory memory

  • The smells we perceive when we walk down the street (there are many stimuli and not all of them remain in our memory).
  • The sounds, noises and voices that we quickly register at a party.
  • The textures we perceive when touching everyday objects.

Memory Types

short term memory long term memory sensory memory
Definition Brain stages responsible for interpreting stimuli and retaining that information for a short time. Brain processes responsible for preserving information for long periods. Brain phases that interpret stimuli for much shorter periods than short-term memory.
systems produced · Executive system. 

· Episodic store.

· Phonological loop.

· Visuospatial agenda.

· Implicit memory. 

· Explicit memory.

· Iconic memory. 

Echoic memory.

· Olfactory memory.

· Haptic memory.

· Taste memory.

Data retention time. Brief (from 7 to 40 sec). Prolonged (from minutes to decades). Brief (thousandths of a second).

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