Difference Between Implicit Memory and Explicit Memory


Main Difference

One of the main differences between these two kinds of long-term memories; implicit and explicit memory is that implicit memory is a type of memory that is the unconscious memory of skills and how to do a thing while the explicit memory is a memory of facts and events and states those memories that can be consciously recalled.

Comparison Chart

Implicit MemoryExplicit Memory
Memory that is used without awareness so that contents of memories can’t be reported is called implicit memoryExplicit memory is a memory that us based on the personal experiences, stored knowledge and memory of facts
Unconscious, automaticConscious, effortful
Different forms depend on different brain regions such as the striatum, neocortex, the cerebellum, etc.The hippocampus and medial temporal lobe are essential to brain structures
Information Types
Emotional, conditioning, body, sensory, automatic skills, automatic proceduresCognitive, facts, mind, verbal, semantic, description of operations and description of procedures
Other Name
Procedural memoryDeclarative memory
From birthAround 3 years
Activity During Traumatic Event and Flashback
SpeechlessConstructs narrative

Implicit Memory

Known by the name of procedural memory, implicit memory stands for a type of memory that we cannot recall consciously as it is more experiential and functional memory. This memory is used and acquired unconsciously and can affect both thoughts and behaviors. It helps people in performing specific tasks without conscious awareness of these previous experiences. This memory also leads to the illusion of the fact that people are more likely to hear those statement that they have already heard regardless of concentrating on what is truth. We as a whole in our daily life rely more on implicit memory because these allows the people to remember how to ride a bicycle or tie the shoes without consciously thinking about these activities. Once we learn how to do our day to day tasks, we retain this in our memory and then act upon this our conscious retrieval of them whenever these occur to us. The above examples of bicycle and tying the shoes demonstrate implicit memory is that form of memory that we are not consciously aware of.


Explicit Memory

Explicit memory is one of the two major types of long-term memory. It is also known by the name of declarative memory as well. This kind of memory requires from people conscious thoughts like recalling who came to dinner last night or solving a term paper where the students need to recall what they have learned so far. Explicit memory belongs to that part of our memory that is in our mind when we think of about a situation whether it is right or wrong. It is often associated with the brain links memory together. Explicit memory is often used by people throughout the day like recollecting an event or recalling the time of an appointment from years ago. It involves conscious recollection. In a simple scenario, remembering a particular driving lesson is an example of explicit memory, while improved driving skill as a result of the lesson is an example of implicit memory. The information types in explicit memory are cognitive, facts, mind, verbal, semantic, description of operations and description of procedures. The hippocampus and medial temporal lobe are essential to brain structures in explicit memory.

Key Differences

  1. Implicit memory is a memory for enhanced processing of a stimulus that has been presented before while explicit memory for events, facts, and ideas.
  2. Explicit memory involves recollection of information while implicitly is about change in behavior.
  3. In explicit memory, information is brought back from the past while in implicit memory is the absence of recovery of information about the prior
  4. Implicit memory is typically assessed by word completion, constrained associations and free association tasks. Explicit memory is typically assessed by a test of recall, recognition and cued recall.
  5. In implicit memory, tests are incidental as subjects perform an orienting or over the task and are not informed about a subsequent memory test. In explicit memory, the test is intentional as subjects are instructed to attend carefully to the material being presented for a subsequent test of their memory for it.
  6. In explicit memory, subjects are asked to recall or recognize previous information while in implicit memory; subjects are not instructed to remember but asked to respond with the first word that comes to mind.
  7. Tasks requiring implicit memory are mirror tracing, reading reversed text, doing a word completion task and singing part of a familiar song. Tasks requiring explicit memory are recalling last year, paired associate learning, identifying the head of state, writing a term paper, etc.
  8. Implicit memory is a direct form of memory while the explicit memory is an indirect form of memory.
  9. Learning can be fast and possibly one-trial learning in case of explicit memory while learning is usually slow and incremental but sometimes rapid in the case of implicit memory.
  10. In explicit memory, knowledge is available to multiple response systems, whereas in implicit memory, knowledge is inflexible.
  11. Implicit memory can’t be intentionally retrieved while explicit memory can be intentionally recalled.
  12. As compared to explicit memory, implicit memory is employed much more as it can be done even in states of non-movement and can be exercised by anybody who has had prior experiences that are personal and match up to the definition of being recorded in the implicit part of the memory.
  13. Implicit memory is a type of non-verbal memory while the explicit memory is a type of verbal memory.
Harlon Moss

Harlon currently works as a quality moderator and content writer for Difference Wiki. He graduated from the University of California in 2010 with a degree in Computer Science. Follow him on Twitter @HarlonMoss