How Memory Functions

Critical Thinking Questions

Compare and contrast implicit and explicit memory.


Both are types of long-term memory. Explicit memories are memories we consciously try to remember and recall. Explicit memory is also called declarative memory and is subdivided into episodic memory (life events) and semantic memory (words, ideas, and concepts). Implicit memories are memories that are not part of our consciousness; they are memories formed from behaviors. Implicit memory is also called non-declarative memory and includes procedural memory as well as things learned through classical conditioning.

According to the Atkinson-Shiffrin model, name and describe the three stages of memory.


According to the Atkinson-Shiffrin model, memory is processed in three stages. The first is sensory memory; this is very brief: 1–2 seconds. Anything not attended to is ignored. The stimuli we pay attention to then move into our short-term memory. Short-term memory can hold approximately 7 bits of information for around 20 seconds. Information here is either forgotten, or it is encoded into long-term memory through the process of rehearsal. Long-term memory is the permanent storage of information—its capacity is basically unlimited.

Compare and contrast the two ways in which we encode information.


Information is encoded through automatic or effortful processing. Automatic processing refers to all information that enters long-term memory without conscious effort. This includes things such as time, space, and frequency—for example, your ability to remember what you ate for breakfast today or the fact that you remember that you ran into your best friend in the supermarket twice this week. Effortful processing refers to encoding information through conscious attention and effort. Material that you study for a test requires effortful processing.