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Study Notes

Episodic, Procedural and Semantic Memory

AS, A-Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

Long-Term Memory (LTM) includes any memories that are held for durations upwards of 30 seconds.

LTM can be split up into declarative memories (explicit memories that can be inspected and recalled consciously) and procedural memories (which are implicit in that we are typically unable to consciously recall them).

Declarative memory can be sub-categorised further into episodic and semantic memories, as shown in the diagram below.

Breakdown of key long-term memory components

Episodic memory

Episodic memory refers to any events that can be reported from a person’s life.

This covers information such as any times, places involved – for example, when you went to the zoo with a friend last week. It is a type of ‘declarative’ memory, i.e. it can be explicitly inspected and recalled consciously. Episodic memory can be split further into autobiographical episodic memory (memories of specific episodes of one’s life) and experimental episodic memory (where learning a fact [a semantic memory, below] has been associated with memory of the specific life episode when it was learned). Flashbulb memories are detailed autobiographical episodic memories that are stored permanently in LTM when they are first learned, often because they were of emotional or historical importance in that person’s life (e.g. a birth or a death).

Semantic memory

Like episodic memory, semantic memory is also a type of ‘declarative’ (explicit, consciously recalled) memory.

However, the conscious recall here is of facts that have meaning, as opposed to the recall of past life events associated with episodic memory. For instance, recalling that you listen to music using your ears does not require knowing when or where you first learned this fact.

Procedural memory

Procedural memory describes our implicit knowledge of tasks that usually do not require conscious recall to perform them. One example would be riding a bike –you might struggle to consciously recall how to manage the task, but we can [unconsciously] perform it with relative ease.

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