Long-Term Memory: Definition, Types & Examples

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  • 0:01 What Is Long-Term Memory?
  • 1:07 Declarative Memory
  • 2:53 Procedural Memory
  • 4:05 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.

Long-term memory consists of the memories that happened more than a few minutes ago. Learn more about long-term memory from real-life examples, and test your knowledge with a quiz.

What Is Long-Term Memory?

Try to recall the previous three minutes of your life. You can probably speak about it in great detail - where you were, what happened, what you felt. Now try to recall what happened to you last week. You might be able to remember certain things, such as waking up or going to work, but you are likely not able to recall everything that went on during the previous week. Those things that you were able to remember about last week are stored in long-term memory. Long-term memory is where we store memories for long periods of time.

No matter if it is a memory from 30 seconds ago or from last week, a memory has to be stored once it has been created. Anything that you remember that took place more than a couple of minutes ago is stored in long-term memory. Once a memory is stored in long-term memory, it can last anywhere from a few minutes to the rest of your life. The amount of information that we can hold in long-term memory is thought to be infinite. This is in contrast to short-term memory, which can only hold between 5 and 9 items for 20 to 30 seconds.

So, what are the different types of long-term memory?

Declarative Memory

Your ability to understand the concept of math, remember what you ate yesterday for breakfast, and recall the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina are examples of declarative memory. Declarative memory is the memory of factual information, general knowledge, data, and events.

We are consciously aware of our declarative memories, and we can verbally 'declare' them. That is, we can communicate our memories to ourselves and others by speaking. For example, we can tell our friends that Hurricane Katrina displaced more than 400,000 residents. For this reason, declarative memory is also called explicit memory.

Semantic memory and episodic memory are the two subtypes of declarative memories. Semantic memory contains general factual information and knowledge related to your world. It includes:

  • The meaning of the word 'memory'
  • The concept of a book
  • Understanding of multiplication
  • Your knowledge of the Civil War

Episodic memory consists of our memories of personal experiences and specific events that have happened in the past. This includes:

  • Memories of your first kiss
  • Remembering what happened at the last basketball game you attended
  • Remembering the last meal you ate
  • Remembering the first time you met your husband

When we recall specific events or experiences that we have had in our lives, we are using episodic memory. Episodic memory consists of personal facts and experience, while semantic memory consists of general facts and knowledge. For example, knowing that football is a sport is an example of semantic memory. Recalling what happened during the last football game that you attended is an episodic memory.

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