Do you know the 4 types of memory we have and how to improve it?

Memories come in many different forms. There’s a lot researchers don’t understand about human memory and how it works.
Scientists debate classifications of memory. There are many theories about the types of memory in the human brain. Most scientists believe that there are at least four general types of memory:

working memory
sensory memory
short term memory
long term memory

Some researchers suggest that these are not distinct types of memory, but rather stages of memory. According to them, memory begins with sensory memory, moves to short-term memory, and then can move to long-term memory. A memory that a person uses only briefly, such as a word they use at the start of a sentence, is part of working memory and may never move on to another part of memory.

The 4 types of memory

1 Sensory memory

Sensory memory retains sensory information for very short periods of time, typically 1 second or less. The processing of memories and other information begins in this type of memory.

If a person pays attention to sensory input, then the information can pass into short-term and then long-term memory.

Here are some examples of sensory memory:

the recording of sounds that a person encounters during a walk
briefly recognize something in the field of vision
Sensory memory helps a person piece together a sense of the world from recent sights, sounds, and other sensory experiences.

When a specific sensory experience becomes relevant, such as the smell of something in the kitchen, it can switch to other types of memory. Otherwise, sensory memories are very short-term, and a person quickly forgets them. For example, a person will not remember all of the specific sounds they have heard in the last 30 seconds, 30 minutes, or 30 days unless there is a reason to remember them.

2 Short term memory

Short-term memory allows a person to remember a limited string of information for a short period of time. These memories disappear quickly, after about 30 seconds. Short-term memory is not just memory that does not last long. Rather, it is a type of short-lived storage that can only hold a few pieces of information.

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Here are some examples of short-term memory:

memorizing a string of 5 to 7 words and repeating it
remembering a phone number while picking up a pen to write it down

3 Working memory

Working memory is similar to short term memory. However, unlike the latter, working memory is the space where a person manipulates information.
This helps him remember the details of his current task. Here are some behaviors that use working memory:

– the solving of a complex mathematical problem where a person must remember several numbers
-cooking something, which requires remembering the ingredients that have already been added
participate in a debate, during which a person must remember the main arguments and evidence used by each side

While specialists generally separate working memory and short-term memory into two different categories, research often finds significant overlap between the two.

4 Long term memory

Long-term memory stores a wide range of memories and experiences. Most of the memories people remember, especially those longer than about 30 seconds, are part of long-term memory. Many researchers divide long-term memory into two subcategories: implicit memories and explicit memories.

– Explicit long-term memory

Explicit memories are conscious memories of events, autobiographical facts, or things that a person learns.

Here are some types of long-term explicit memory.

episodic memory

They are memories of events or autobiographical facts. Examples of episodic memory include remembering an election, childhood events, and personal facts, such as whether someone is married.

Semantic memory

Semantic memories are general knowledge about the world. A person can remember a fact or an event that he did not experience because he learned or studied it.
For example, knowing what the human heart looks like is an example of semantic memory. However, it would be an episodic memory if the person remembered dissecting a pig’s heart at school.

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– Implicit long-term memory

Implicit memories are memories that influence a person’s behavior. However, people don’t consciously think about it.

Procedural memory

Procedural memory helps a person perform familiar tasks, such as walking or driving.

At first, she may have to learn to do these things and remember specific skills, but eventually these tasks become an automatic part of procedural memory.


Priming occurs when experiences influence a person’s behavior. For example, a smoker may crave a cigarette after a meal, or an experimenter may train a person to press a button in response to a photo. Classical and operative conditioning involves conditioning first-order people or animals to adopt specific behaviors in response to certain experiences.

Does the memory have an unlimited capacity?

Working memory, sensory memory and short-term memory have lower capacities. This is because these types of memory only last for a short period of time.
With short-term memory, there is usually a specific limit to the amount of information a person can retain, usually around seven items.

Some people might increase their short-term memory capacity with practice. The brain is not a computer, and memories do not take up space in physical space. In theory, there is no specific limit to the capacity of long-term memory. However, the quality of memories and their details may vary and change over time because:

Memories can be unreliable

The brain does not store memories perfectly, so memories can change or disappear over time.

Numerous studies suggest that memories are unreliable, even when a person remembers something very clearly. In a 2015 study, researchers were able to convince innocent people that they had committed serious crimes, such as assault with a weapon, during their teenage years.

Can a person have a photographic memory?

Some people have exceptionally good memories. People with hyperthymia, an extraordinarily rare condition, may recall all or most of their autobiographical memories. Others may exercise their memory to better remember information or remember strings of words or numbers.
There is no scientific evidence that anyone has a so-called photographic memory. The brain is not a camera and cannot record information perfectly.

Improve your memory

Here are some strategies for improving memory:

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-Develop mnemonic devices to memorize new information. For example, memorizing all the names in a play might involve creating a rhyme or association for each name.
-Make riddles and puzzles.
-Develop strong memory associations to help remember things. Talking about recent memories or keeping a journal can help cultivate these associations.
– Do cardiovascular exercises to promote brain health. Physical activity improves all the markers of good brain activity. Memory included.


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Camina, E., & Güell, F. (2017). The neuroanatomical, neurophysiological and psychological basis of memory: Current models and their origins.

Cascella, M., & Khalili, YA (2020). Short term memory impairment.

Cowan, N. (2008). What are the differences between long-term, short-term, and working memory?

Keane, MM, et al. (2015). Attention and implicit memory: Priming-induced benefits and costs to distinct attentional requirements.

Lacy, JW, & Stark, CEL (2013). The neuroscience of memory: Implications for the courtroom.

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* Presse Santé strives to transmit medical knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE can the information given replace medical advice.

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