Course Hero Logo



Memory is the mental process of storing and retrieving information over time. This stored information may take the form of images, sounds, or facts. It constitutes what people know about the world and can retrieve about past experiences. People rely on memory to make sense of day-to-day experiences and guide choices based on past experiences. People's memories play a major role in shaping their identities. The process of memory involves transforming perceptions, feelings, and thoughts into enduring mental structures. Some memories are retrieved through deliberate effort, others through automatic mental processes. Because memories are the result of mental processing, they are subject to errors and distortions.

At A Glance

  • Information is maintained briefly in sensory and short-term memory, where it is processed and interpreted before becoming enduring mental structures in long-term memory.
  • Implicit memories are encoded automatically, subconsciously, and retrieved independent of conscious awareness. Explicit memories consist of facts and experiences that are constructed using deliberate encoding and can be consciously known.
  • Effortful processing strategies that can be used to enhance memory include rehearsal strategies, encoding strategies, and practice strategies.
  • Consolidation, which is facilitated by sleep, helps people hold on to their memories.
  • Memories are consolidated within highly organized frameworks called schemas, which facilitate rapid retrieval but also make stored memories prone to errors.
  • Retrieval success is enhanced through the use of cues that were present at the time the memory was acquired.
  • Explicit memories are easier to recall in settings that match the setting in which learning occurred and when learning occurred without interference.
  • Memory is the outcome of a constructive process, and information loss (forgetting) may occur at each stage of processing.
  • Memory is not as reliable as a digital video recording; memory errors may occur due to suggestibility and false memories.
  • Changes in the neural circuits of the brain occur as a result of perceiving, thinking, feeling, and retrieving experiences.
  • Explicit memory formation requires an intact hippocampus. Implicit (procedural) memory formation involves activation of the motor cortex, cerebellum, and basal ganglia.