Implicit Memory

Implicit memory is a really interesting portion of the human memory, and it’s one that you don’t have to think about. Without implicit memory, though, you wouldn’t be able to perform many of your most basic daily functions and tasks. This type of memory doesn’t necessarily always help you, though, especially when you’re trying to discern truths from lies. Here’s what you need to know about implicit memory and how it works:

What Implicit Memory Does

Implicit memory has several different types, one of which is procedural memory, which helps you learn to do basic things like use a fork or ride a bike. There are other types of implicit memory, though. Essentially, this type of memory is made up of memories that you aren’t really conscious of.

Think of something that happened to you when you were nine, and you’ll most likely get a pretty clear image of some special event or terrible memory. This is an explicit memory. You know that this is a memory, and you can pull it into your waking consciousness without much trouble. These memories are explicit memories, and implicit memories are basically their opposites.

It’s a little confusing, yes, but here’s another example. Pull up in your memory the procedure you go through when you ride a bike. It’s a little harder, isn’t it? You don’t really think about what you do to ride a bike. You just do it! In fact, bike riding is one implicit memory that people seem to hang on to rather well once they get the hang of the process. Haven’t you heard it said that you never really forget how to ride a bike?

Riding a bike is a procedural memory, but implicit memory has another section, too: semantic memory. This is essentially a memory of something generic that you use to interpret your world every day.

For instance, if I say the word, baby or dog or cat or milk, you know what those things look like in your head. Unless you’ve recently been thinking about a particular baby, dog, cat, or glass of milk, though, you’ll just pull up a memory that’s a composite of different babies, dogs, cats, and glasses of milk you’ve seen throughout your lifetime.

Depending on your experience, the baby you see might tend to be black or white, and the dog you see might be big or small. This doesn’t mean you’re assuming every baby is that color or every dog is that size. Instead, you’re just using what you know of the world – your implicit memory – to help you get a picture of what a theoretical baby or dog or cat might happen to look like. Even though you probably have some abstract ideas or even concrete pictures in your mind, you know that they aren’t necessarily universal, and that specific babies or dogs will have different characteristics to set them apart from the rest of the crowd.

How Do We Know About Implicit Memory?

Implicit memory is something really interesting to study because, like other forms of memory, it can be hard to explain and even harder to explain how we know about it. However, the idea of this type of memory makes sense because patients who have amnesia and have lost most or all of their explicit memories still are able to learn things through procedural memory and may still have semantic memories of things like babies and dogs. They still know what these things are, even though they may not remember their own baby or their own beloved dog.

This type of memory is essential for learning and understanding the world, and it’s also just an interesting phenomenon to look at!