Memory refers to a process by which your brain takes in information, stores that information, and retrieves it later. You have three kinds of memory:
- Sensory memory. This shortest type of memory involves what you’re currently taking in with your senses.
- Short-term memory. These memories last for less than a minute, though, with some effort, they can sometimes become long-term memories.
- Long-term memory. These memories can last for days to years.
Implicit memory is a type of long-term memory related to the impact that activities and experiences can have on your behavior. You might also hear it referred to as nondeclarative memory.
You access your implicit memory unconsciously without even thinking about it.
Read on to learn more about implicit memory, how it differs from other types of long-term memory, and how it’s tested.
There are three main types of implicit memory. Here’a a look at what each one involves, and examples of how they can play out in your everyday life.
Procedural memory includes your knowledge of how to perform various tasks, ranging from simple to complex. You use your procedural memory all the time to carry out basic tasks.
Some examples of procedural memory include:
- driving a car or riding a bike
- playing a video game
- speaking to someone in your native language
Priming refers to the process by which a past experience increases the accuracy or quickness of a response.
Some examples of priming include:
- being able to say the word “automobile” out loud more quickly after reading it
- seeing a supporter of a rival sports team and feeling competitive
- being more likely to think of the word “library” after seeing the word “book”
Classical conditioning is when you unconsciously learn to associate one thing with another.
The classic example of this is Pavlov’s dog. This refers to an experiment in which a bell was sounded before dogs were given a meal. Over time, the dogs started to associate the sound of the bell with getting a meal. As a result, they began to salivate at the sound of the bell.
You might have a similar reaction to hearing the unique ringtone you assigned to your best friend. You associate that sound with talking to someone you love, so hearing it unconsciously puts you in a happy mood.
There are two types of long-term memory. In addition to implicit memory, there’s also explicit, or declarative, memory. Explicit memory deals with remembering facts and events.
Unlike implicit memory, which you use unconsciously, it takes a conscious effort to retrieve things from your explicit memory. For example, imagine someone asks you what your address is. That’s your cue to to go into your explicit memory and retrieve the information.
Implicit and explicit memory also involve different parts of your brain. A structure in the temporal lobe of the brain called the hippocampus is important for explicit memory.
The areas of the brain involved with implicit memory include the:
- basal ganglia
In addition, the amygdala, a small structure located near to the hippocampus, is involved in both explicit and implicit memory.
Doctors sometimes test a person’s implicit memory to see if an injury or underlying condition is affecting certain parts of the brain.
This is usually done by looking at the priming effect using a:
- Word stem completion test. You’re shown a few letters of the alphabet and asked to provide a word that starts with those letters.
- Word fragment test. You’re presented with an incomplete word and asked to fill in the missing letters.
- Anagram solving test. You’re given a word with jumbled letters and asked to rearrange them correctly.
If someone is able to complete these tasks, the priming aspect of their implicit memory is intact. This information can help to rule out damage to the brain.
Implicit memory is a form of long-term memory that doesn’t require any conscious retrieval. There are several types of implicit memory, including procedural memory, priming, and conditioning. Together, these subtypes help you carry out everyday tasks, from riding a bike to having a conversation with someone.