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2 Tutorials that teach Long-term Memory
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Long-term Memory

Long-term Memory

Author: Erick Taggart

Recognize the characteristics of long-term memory and its subtypes.

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Hello, class. So when we're talking about memory in psychology it's helpful to think of it along the lines of this analogy. So we'll say that the memory works as an office worker, who's sitting at a desk with lots of papers that are crossing that desk at any given time.

Now most of these papers are considered unimportant and they are largely ignored. This is the sensory information. Lots of papers that we are getting bombarded with at any time. But some of those papers are considered to be important. And the person looks at them and pays attention to them. And these are papers that get past on to the short-term memory.

So that office worker takes a look at those pieces of paper and sees if they are something that needs to be considered any further. If they're not, just like the sensory information, they get thrown away. But if they are considered to be even more important, they pass on to the third and final stage. They are filed away in the desk or the filing cabinet so that they can be referred to later on. In other words, they are placed inside of our long-term memory.

Now our long-term memory is a system of memory that allows information to be filed and stored away for later retrieval and use by the person. And this long-term memory storage is seemingly limitless. We have a limitless space for this information. In other words, we don't need to forget something to remember something else. There's not a point at which we stop remembering things.

Now in the long-term memory all of this information is stored according to its meaning. In other words, it's encoded so that we create meaning out of it so we can store it better. In other words, we don't tend to remember things in lists. We don't just memorize everything that we see without any kind of context or meaning to it. Instead, we put them into sorts of things like categories or according to rules or similarities, differences, images, symbols. All these sorts of things that help us to place information together and to connect it in our mind so that it makes sense.

This goes along the lines of cognitive theories of psychology and the creation of schema. And schema are those mental constructs that organize information together. This is the same sort of thing. So within the long-term memory, these memories are considered to be relatively permanent, which is to say unless something interferes with the information or it's badly really encoded to begin with, it's something that we should remember for essentially the rest of our lives.

Now the long-term memory is normally outside of our consciousness. In other words, we don't remember all of our memories at all times unless we need to you make use of it in some way. In which case, suddenly we retrieve it or we bring it up to our conscious memory and then we can use it in some kind of way.

So there are different types of long-term memory storage that our brain uses. The first is our procedural memory. Procedural memory is any kind of a long-term memory of actions and skills. In other words, how we do certain things.

So for example, procedural memory includes things like riding a bike, driving, tying shoes, cooking a meal, any of these kinds of things. So procedural memory is more implicit, which sits inside of us. And they are conditioned responses. Related especially to the hind brain, the section of our brain, like the cerebellum. That's a little bit more basic and at the core of our brain.

So in cases of amnesia, for example, where people forget their past life, like who they are, who their wife is, or their children is, all their memories of their childhood. So when they lose all of those things we generally think of as memory, a lot of times those people can retain their procedural memory and they can still be able to perform certain kinds of practiced actions that they learned throughout their lives. So they haven't lost all of their memory, just more of their declarative memory. And their procedural memory is intact.

So declarative memory is the opposite of procedural memory. And this is the long-term memory of more explicit and factual information. Things like words, numbers or symbols. Things like that.

And declarative memory comes in two forms. We've got semantic and episodic. Now semantic memory is any kind of fact-based memory that's impersonal and detached. It's something that we learned, but isn't directly related to us. It's more related to our knowledge of the world around us. So you can think of things like math or science and facts about, say, animals or the world to be aspects of semantic memory.

Episodic memory, as you can imagine from the name, which looks a lot like episode, has to do with personal information of specific events and experiences or different episodes in our lives. So for example, our episodic memory would include things like your fifth birthday, your first kiss, the birth of your child, or your marriage. All these sorts of important life events or even relatively unimportant ones. Anything that's involved with us personally. So these memories are related specifically to a time and a place that the events occurred, as well as what actually happened.

Terms to Know
Declarative Memory

Long-term memory of more explicit, factual information, like words, numbers, and symbols.

Episodic memory

Personal memory of specific events and experiences.

Long-Term Memory

The system of memory that allows information to be filed or stored away for later retrieval and use.

Procedural Memory

Long-term memory of actions and skills, or how to do certain things.

Semantic memory

Fact-based, impersonal knowledge of the world.