6 types of memory that humans have

Although the most widely known classification is short-term and long-term memory, there are different types of memory. Each of them allows us to store or access different memories.

Last update: 04 October, 2021

Remembering the walks in the square with our grandmother, being able to ride a bicycle after not doing it for years, getting in the car every morning and driving it like an automatic, without having to review each movement over and over again. Who is behind each and every one of these actions is memory, but we must know that there are several types.

What is memory?

When we refer to memory, we are not talking about a specific organ, but of various brain structures that intervene in complex processes that allow us to record, store and access different types of information.

Although complex neural circuits are involved, in general terms, memory unfolds as follows:

  • A first coding phase. Here a first reading of the information is made that will later be stored. The concentration, attention and motivation of the person are key aspects in the selection of what will be stored.
  • The storage It is the second phase and refers to the retention of information.
  • A third phase is that of recovery, which refers to the possibility of having said information when we need it.
Complex mechanisms occur in neural circuits that explain the storage of information in memory.

Memory types and their characteristics

There are different criteria to classify memory. Among the most common are temporality, the format of the information it houses and the type of information that is stored.

Regarding temporality, we are talking about two types of memory: short and long term. But within the latter, we could also use another criterion that is subdivided into more parts, as we will see below.

1. Short-term memory

This memory has a limited capacity. In general, you can hold a maximum of 7 items simultaneously.

Also the retention time of the information is short, with a maximum of 20 seconds. Here attention and concentration are key, since if we are distracted, short-term memory capacity is reduced.

Also, working memory is often mentioned here. It involves the management and organization of information for the achievement of a specific objective.

2. Memory long term

Long-term memory is more stable and durable. Within it, as we already anticipated, a subclassification has been proposed, where we find the declarative and the procedural type.

3. Declarative memory

As part of long-term memory, it refers to the content of what is stored. Episodic memory allows us remember specific facts referring to our own biography and that they are linked to a specific time and place. In it, events that we identify as personal are housed.

On the other hand, semantic memory allows us to remember in more general terms and is linked to our understanding of the world. The meaning of concepts and vocabulary are also housed here.

4. Procedural memory

This other part of long-term memory refers to the how (the step-by-step of a recipe, for example). Allows you to retrieve information about motor skills.

In this case, when the information is consolidated, it appears automatically, as if by inertia. There is no need to go over the procedure over and over again.

5. Sensory memory

Regarding the information format, sensory memory is that which records or stores information considering the senses. We remember the smell of grandmother’s cake or the soft touch of our pet, for example.

6. Verbal memory

Verbal memory refers to the information stored in word format, whether written or verbal.

Advices to improve the memory

Memory must be cared for and kept active. In this sense, it is important to bear in mind that both in its maintenance and in learning, people have an active role.

Next, we leave a series of recommendations to exercise the different types of memory:

  • Good rest: During sleep, different processes are carried out that involve the consolidation of memories and learning, as well as the selection of the information that must be discarded.
  • Emotional state: it is an influence on what we pay attention to, what we remember, and what we forget. For example, if we are very anxious, it will be difficult for us to pay attention to a conversation or to connect with a particular event.
  • Decrease the number of sources of stimulation: If we want to retain certain information, it is best that we try to capture it in detail, focusing on it. In that case, it is better to avoid being aware of the television, the cell phone, the conversation of the person next to you.
  • Play: There are different playful proposals that allow to strengthen memory, by combining different actions such as completing words, questions and answers to remember events or data.
  • Take care of the diet: the proper functioning of memory also has its correlate in the diet we eat: Therefore, the type of diet is a variable to consider. It is recommended to include fish, eggs, green leafy vegetables, foods with omega 3.
Different daily practices are capable of stimulating memory.

Know our memory types

Beyond the various existing classifications on memory, there are two practical data that can help us enhance it. One of them has to do with the type of memory or the method that works for us to remember information. Thus, there are those who detect that they remember better through visual memory, while others remember sounds better.

Secondly, it is convenient to identify where the failures from memory that we have more often. In general, the causes have to do with inattention, motivation, emotional state, brain injuries, interference and memory overlap.

Knowing each other, we can reinforce our types of memory with specific exercises.

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