There are two different types of long-term memory:
1a. Explicit Memory
Explicit memory, or declarative memory, includes information like words, numbers, or symbols; information that a person is usually conscious of. When they are thinking of these memories, people are able to verbalize them.
These memories use recall or recognition to test whether the memory has been effectively remembered or learned:
1b. Implicit Memory
Implicit memory, or procedural memory, refers to unconscious memories, ones that a person can't necessarily verbalize. These include things such as how to ride a bike or how to tie a shoe.
Psychologists have found that a person can show what is stored in their implicit memories through the use of a technique called priming. Priming means giving some limited clues, which activate unconscious memories and bring them up to the forefront, so we can see what they are.
EXAMPLESuppose you're shown a list of words that includes the word "chair"--so, words like table, pen, desk and chair. Later, when you're asked to provide a word from the list that starts with the letters "ch," then you're very likely to say the word "chair," because it's been primed in your mind as a word to remember.
This process seems relatively simple, but psychologists have found that this can have significant real-world applications.
In one experiment, Bargh gave a group of people a test, where they were unconsciously exposed to words that had to do with the elderly. After the people completed the test, they were then asked to deliver the test to a room at the very end of a hallway.
The people that were exposed to those words related to the elderly were found to move much more slowly as they walked down that hallway. Those words were primed in them, and as a result, they acted in a more elderly way.
Bargh and other psychologists have found that this concept applies to other things as well. For instance, personality characteristics, like rudeness, can be primed in someone and cause them to be more rude. They found that this sort of stereotyping can also apply to our unconscious feelings of people of different races as well.
Source: This work is adapted from Sophia author Erick Taggart.