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Explicit memory, sometimes called declarative memory is the conscious, intentional recollection of previous experiences and information. We use explicit memory throughout the day, such as remembering the time of an appointment or recollecting an event from years ago.

Explicit memory involves conscious recollection, compared with implicit memory which is an unconscious, nonintentional form of memory. Remembering a specific driving lesson is an example of explicit memory, while improving your driving skills during the lesson is an example of implicit memory.

Encoding and retrieval of explicit memory

Encoding: Explicit memory depends on conceptually driven, top-down processing, in which a subject reorganizes the data to store it. The subject makes associations with previously related stimuli or experiences. The later recall of information is thus greatly influenced by the way in which the information was originally processed. The depth-of-processing effect is the improvement in subsequent recall of an object about which a person has given thought to its meaning or shape.
Simply put: To create explicit memories, you have to do something with your experiences: think about them, talk about them, write them down, study them, etc. The more you do, the better you will remember.

Retrieval: Because a person has played an active role in processing explicit information, the internal cues that were used in processing it, can also be used to initiate spontaneous recall.
Simply put: When you've talked about a certain experience, the words that you used, will help you when you half a year later try to remember this experience.

Neural structures involved in explicit memory

Several neural structures are proposed to be involved in explicit memory. Most are in the temporal lobe or closely related to it, such as the amygdala, the hippocampus, the rhinal cortex in the temporal lobe, and the prefrontal cortex. Nuclei in the thalamus also are included, because many connections between the prefrontal cortex and temporal cortex are made through the thalamus.
The regions that make up the explicit memory circuit receive input from the neocortex and from brainstem systems, including acetylcholine, serotonin, and noradrenaline systems.[1]

Two kinds of explicit memory

Episodic memory
Episodic memory, also called autobiographical memory, consists of the recollection of singular events in the life of a person. It is the memory of life experiences centered on yourself.

Episodic memory is necessary for "time traveling": remembering your past and imagining your future. It is considered a uniquely human quality that depends on maturation and therefore won't be found in babies and young children.[2]

Semantic memory
Semantic memory consists of all explicit memory that is not autobiographical. Examples of semantic memory is knowledge of historical events and figures; the ability to recognize friends and acquaintances; and information learned in school, such as specialized vocabularies and reading, writing and mathematics.

The neural basis of episodic and semantic memory is not yet known today. However, some scientists suggest that episodic memory might be dependent on the right hemisphere, and semantic memory on the left hemisphere.[3]

See also

References & Bibliography

Key texts



Additional material



  • Gais, S. & Born, J. (2004). Declarative memory consolidation: Mechanisms acting during human sleep. Learning & Memory, 11:679-685. Full text
  • Kolb & Whishaw: Fundamentals of Human Neuropsychology (2003), chapter 18
  • Maheu, F.S., Joober, R. & Lupien, S.J. (2005). Declarative Memory after Stress in Humans: Differential Involvement of the β-Adrenergic and Corticosteroid Systems. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 90 (3): 1697. Full text

External links

Types of memory
Articulatory suppression‎ | Auditory memory | Autobiographical memory | Collective memory | Early memories | Echoic Memory | Eidetic memory | Episodic memory | Episodic-like memory  | Explicit memory  |Exosomatic memory | False memory |Flashbulb memory | Iconic memory | Implicit memory | Institutional memory | Long term memory | Music-related memory | Procedural memory | Prospective memory | Repressed memory | Retrospective memory | Semantic memory | Sensory memory | Short term memory | Spatial memory | State-dependent memory | Tonal memory | Transactive memory | Transsaccadic memory | Verbal memory  | Visual memory  | Visuospatial memory  | Working memory  |
Aspects of memory
Childhood amnesia | Cryptomnesia |Cued recall | Eye-witness testimony | Memory and emotion | Forgetting |Forgetting curve | Free recall | Levels-of-processing effect | Memory consolidation |Memory decay | Memory distrust syndrome |Memory inhibition | Memory and smell | Memory for the future | Memory loss | Memory optimization | Memory trace | Mnemonic | Memory biases  | Modality effect | Tip of the tongue | Lethologica | Memory loss |Priming | Primacy effect | Reconstruction | Proactive interference | Prompting | Recency effect | Recall (learning) | Recognition (learning) | Reminiscence | Retention | Retroactive interference | Serial position effect | Serial recall | Source amnesia |
Memory theory
Atkinson-Shiffrin | Baddeley | CLARION | Decay theory | Dual-coding theory | Interference theory |Memory consolidation | Memory encoding | Memory-prediction framework | Forgetting | Recall | Recognition |
Method of loci | Mnemonic room system | Mnemonic dominic system | Mnemonic learning | Mnemonic link system |Mnemonic major system | Mnemonic peg system | [[]] |[[]] |
Neuroanatomy of memory
Amygdala | Hippocampus | prefrontal cortex  | Neurobiology of working memory | Neurophysiology of memory | Rhinal cortex | Synapses |[[]] |
Neurochemistry of memory
Glutamatergic system  | of short term memory | [[]] |[[]] | [[]] | [[]] | [[]] | [[]] |[[]] |
Developmental aspects of memory
Prenatal memory | |Childhood memory | Memory and aging | [[]] | [[]] |
Memory in clinical settings
Alcohol amnestic disorder | Amnesia | Dissociative fugue | False memory syndrome | False memory | Hyperthymesia | Memory and aging | Memory disorders | Memory distrust syndrome  Repressed memory  Traumatic memory |
Retention measures
Benton | CAMPROMPT | Implicit memory testing | Indirect tests of memory | MAS | Memory tests for children | MERMER | Rey-15 | Rivermead | TOMM | Wechsler | WMT | WRAML2 |
Treating memory problems
CBT | EMDR | Psychotherapy | Recovered memory therapy |Reminiscence therapy | Memory clinic | Memory training | Rewind technique |
Prominant workers in memory|-
Baddeley | Broadbent |Ebbinghaus  | Kandel |McGaugh | Schacter  | Treisman | Tulving  |
Philosophy and historical views of memory
Aristotle | [[]] |[[]] |[[]] |[[]] | [[]] | [[]] | [[]] |
Journals | Learning, Memory, and Cognition |Journal of Memory and Language |Memory |Memory and Cognition | [[]] | [[]] | [[]] |
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  1. H.L. Petri and M. Mishkin: Behaviorism, cognitivism, and the neuropsychology of memory, in: American scientist, 82:30-37, 1994
  2. E. Tulving: Episodic memory: from mind to brain. In: Annual review of psychology 53:1-25, 2002.
  3. These scientists are E. Tulving and R.F. Thompson