Short and long term memory

Short-term memory refers to the entire cognitive system in charge of processing stimuli for a short period of time.

Long-term memory is the cognitive part in charge of processing information and storing it for a long time.

Short and long-term memory are one of the most important types of memory in human beings, because they are involved in the learning process.

Short term memoryLong term memory
DefinitionCognitive processes responsible for storing information for a short timeCognitive processes responsible for storing information for a long time.
Types or systems
  • Operating system.
  • Phonological buckle.
  • Visual spatial system.
  • Episodic warehouse.
  • Explicit memory.
  • Implicit memory.
Data permanence timeBrief, 7 to 40 seconds.Prolonged, they can be minutes, years or decades.
ExamplesRemember the first sentence of a conversation.Remember how to ride a bicycle.

Short term memory

Short-term memory (MCP) is all the brain and cognitive processes that allow the human being to receive external stimuli and encode, process and store them for a limited time that goes between seven to 40 seconds.

The amount of stimuli that can be stored in short-term memory is also limited, since the average is 7 elements, with a difference of two elements due to excess or deficit.

This figure only represents an average, since there are people who can store a greater amount of information. In these cases, several factors influence, such as the emotional associations that the person makes to retain the information or the length of the data to be memorized.

On the other hand, in short-term memory the received stimuli can be discarded if they are not relevant. But if they are very persistent they can go into long-term memory.

Types of short-term memory

Short-term memory has 4 systems that are responsible for retaining different types of data:

Operating system

Regulates the entire short-term memory system.

phonological bud

It retains verbal information and is the system responsible for the internal speech that we maintain when we repeat something to memorize it.

space vision agenda

It is the system that is only in charge of information of a visual and spatial nature.

Episodic warehouse

It is the system that is responsible for retaining multiple data that allow to have a global memory (visual, verbal and spatial data).

Examples of short-term memory

Here are some everyday examples where short-term memory plays a role:

  • When they dictate an address or a phone number to us and we repeat it internally to remember it.
  • When we read a book and remember the first sentence in order to understand the next sentence.
  • When we learn the chorus of a song we are hearing for the first time.

Long term memory

Long-term memory is made up of a series of cognitive processes that allow information to be stored for periods of time that can be minutes, years or decades.

In long-term memory, short-term memory plays an essential role, since the latter acts as the gateway for data that will become permanent.

In addition to storing sensory stimuli (images, sounds, movements, smells, etc.), long-term memory also contains all the essential information about human behavior. His particular views on fundamental values ​​such as truth, justice, freedom, respect for himself and for others, etc. they are stored in this cognitive area.

Long-term memory types

There are two types of long-term memory:

Explicit or declarative memory

It involves the storage of objective information essential to understand the functioning of the world and subjective information that we use to associate certain memories. Explicit memory, in turn, is divided into two types:

Semantic memory

They are all the processes in charge of memorizing information relevant to our learning process. This includes language and vocabulary, knowledge acquired in school, and the association of ideas or concepts.

episodic memory

Stores information related to specific episodes of personal life. Depending on the emotional impact they have had, they will become part (or not) of long-term memory.

Implicit or non-declarative memory

It is a type of memory that allows us to save and retrieve information related to motor skills.

Examples of long-term memory

  • Remember how to do basic math operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division).
  • Remember a special event that occurred in childhood.
  • Driving a car or bicycle after a long period of inactivity.

See also: Memory types

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