Episodic Memory: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 What Is Episodic Memory?
  • 1:53 Episodic Learning
  • 2:37 Episodic Memory vs.…
  • 3:26 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Episodic memory is the memory of personal experiences and specific events, including location, time, and emotions. Learn about episodic memory through examples, and test your knowledge with a quiz.

What Is Episodic Memory?

Imagine that you are having a conversation with a friend about the concert that you attended last week. You tell her the name of the artist, the time of the concert, the location of the concert, and how you enjoyed watching the singer perform her latest hits. The information that you have recalled to your friend is stored in episodic memory.

The memories of what you ate for breakfast, your first day of college, and your cousin's wedding are examples of episodic memory. Episodic memory is one of two types of declarative memory. Declarative memory is a type of long-term memory that refers to facts, data, or events that can be recalled at will.

Episodic memory allows you to consciously recall personal experiences and specific events that happened in the past. This includes recalling information regarding when an event took place, where the event happened, what occurred during the event, and the associated emotions. Episodic memory is fully developed when we are around age four.

Episodic memory was first described by Endel Tulving in 1972. The defining feature of episodic memory is that it allows you to travel mentally back in time and experience the event all over again. When we recall episodic memories, we know that we are remembering a past event. That is, we are consciously aware of re-experiencing. This awareness allows us to retrieve an episodic memory without confusing the feelings related to the previous experience that we are recalling with our experience and awareness of a related, present situation.

Let's say that you decide to go see a movie with friends. You recall that the last movie that you saw at this theatre was horrible. Your dislike for the previous movie does not make the movie that you are currently watching unpleasant. You are aware that the feelings you had regarding the previous movie are unrelated to the current movie that you and your friends are watching.

Episodic Learning

Imagine that you are the parent of a 12-year-old daughter who has been asking for a cat for months. You agree to let her cat-sit for one of your friends to see if a pet would be a good fit for your family. Once the cat meets your daughter, the cat becomes hostile and bites her hard on the hand. As a result, your daughter decides that she does not want a cat and develops a fear of cats. This is an example of episodic learning.

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