Memory refers to a process by which your brain takes in information, stores it, and retrieves it later.
You have three kinds of memory:
- Sensory memory. This involves what you’re currently taking in with your senses. It’s the shortest type of memory.
- Short-term memory. Short-term memories tend to last for less than a minute, though they can sometimes become long-term memories.
- Long-term memory. Long-term memories can last for days to years.
Explicit memory is a type of long-term memory that’s concerned with recollection of facts and events. You may also see explicit memory referred to as declarative memory.
Explicit memory requires you to consciously recall information. For example, imagine someone asks you what the capital of France is. To answer, you’d likely access your memory to find the correct answer: Paris.
Read on to learn more about explicit memory, its different types, and how you can improve your long-term memory.
Explicit memory can be further divided into two different types: semantic and episodic memory.
Semantic memory involves facts and general knowledge. This can range from things like specific scientific facts to larger, more abstract concepts.
Episodic memory is concerned with specific things or experiences that have happened to you.
Both your semantic and episodic memory are crucial to your day-to-day functioning.
For example, your semantic memory might help you:
- know that the word “boat” refers to a watercraft of varying sizes
- recall that Washington, D.C., is the capital of the U.S.
- recognize the distinguishing features that classify an animal as a dog
Your episodic memory, on the other hand, can help you:
- remember the trip to London you took with your two best friends a couple of years ago
- recall a great dinner you had at your favorite restaurant
- think about your high school graduation ceremony
Long-term memories, including explicit memories, are made over the course of three steps.
Step 1: Encoding
At this stage, your senses take information from your environment and send it to your brain. From there, the information enters your memory.
The level of processing that occurs can vary from shallow (focusing on physical features, color, or size) to deep (focusing on the meaning of the item or its relationship to other things).
Step 2: Storage
Once a memory has been encoded, it’s ready to be stored in your brain. In storage, memories can be maintained for longer periods of time.
A single long-term memory can be stored in many parts of your brain. For example, the visual parts of the memory are stored in the area of the brain associated with vision.
Step 3: Retrieval
Retrieval is the process of recalling information that’s been encoded and stored as a memory. This usually happens in response to retrieval cues, or things that trigger you to search for a memory.
For example, if someone asks you a trivia question, that’s your retrieval cue to search your memory for specific information.
Sometimes, retrieval happens effortlessly. Other times, it can take a bit of work.
There are two types of long-term memory. In addition to explicit memory, there’s also implicit memory.
Implicit memory, sometimes called non-declarative memory, involves the way experiences affect our behaviors. Unlike explicit memory, which requires making a conscious effort to recall information, implicit memory operates unconsciously.
A good example of implicit memory is driving, which is something you just do. While you can teach someone what they need to do in order to drive a car, you can’t teach them exactly how much pressure to apply to the gas or the brake pedal.
Want to fine-tune your memory to be as efficient as possible? The following tips may help to boost your long-term memory and prevent memory loss:
- Get plenty of sleep. Sleep is important for consolidating your memories so you can recall them later. If you’re trying to commit something to your long-term memory, try recalling it just before falling asleep.
- Avoid multitasking. Multitasking naturally divides your attention. It can interfere with the memory-encoding process.
- Stay active. Exercise increases blood flow to your body, including your brain. Aim to get about 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week. Sound daunting? Build a brisk walk, even for just 15 minutes, into your daily routine.
- Give your brain a workout, too. Just like physical exercise, mental exercise can help to keep your brain in good shape. Do things that make you think, such as crossword puzzles or learning a new skill.
- Maintain a healthy diet. Focus on brain-nourishing foods, including dark, leafy greens and fatty fish.
- Keep yourself organized.Write down your own to-do lists, or keep appointments listed in a notebook. If you’re trying to learn something new, write down your own summaries or outlines. This helps you actively engage in learning.
Explicit memory is a type of long-term memory that centers on remembering facts and events. You must consciously make an effort to recall things from your explicit memory.