Chapter 3: Long-Term Memory

Sensory Memory & Short-Term Memory

Long-Term Memory

Recent experiences

Memory traces developed over periods of days, weeks, months, & years

Things that are currently in consciousness

Lifetime of information

Rehearsal / repetition are crucial

Meaning & organization are crucial

Capacity & retention duration are limited

Permanent repository (storehouse)

Recall = understanding information + retrieving LTM becomes particularly important if we believe that learning is a constructive process (creation & re-creation of new knowledge in the context of previously established and retrievable knowledge) – role of prior knowledge and experience – it’s like building a new house using whatever resources you already have (bricks, cement, tiles, planks, etc.).

Types of Knowledge:

  1. Declarative Knowledge = factual knowledge (knowing ‘what’)

Semantic Knowledge = general knowledge – concepts and principles – meaning and understanding of meaning

Episodic Knowledge = personal experiences – personally dated, autobiographical experiences – “personal tags” association recall

  1. Procedural Knowledge = process knowledge (knowing ‘how’)
  2. Conditional Knowledge = knowing ‘when’ and ‘why’ to use DK & PK (needed to help us use DK & PK in real-life settings – at the right time, in the right place, for the right purpose)

Explicit Memory

Implicit Memory

Involves conscious recall or recognition of previous experiences; intentional information retrieval; a conscious or voluntary search for information

declarative memory

Knowing information about a bike

Knowledge without awareness; unintentional, non-conscious/unconscious form of retention; actions influenced by a previous event but without conscious awareness/remembering; e.g., using computers, tying shoes, driving a car (procedural knowledge, conditioning, habituation); behavior can be influenced by memory of past events even without conscious awareness (stereotypes & prejudice?)

In fact, when a person tries to reflect on how these skills are being performed, performance often deteriorates

Non-declarative memory

Knowing the physical process of riding a bike


We may know how to ride a bike, but it is very difficult to explain how to do so.

If we believe in implicit memory or learning, it seems that people are unconsciously acquiring rules that they can use but NOT articulate.

Overall, we are good at getting ‘the gist’ of things but falter on details!

The Building Blocks of Cognition (What make cognition possible?)

  1. Concepts
  2. Propositions
  3. Schemata
  4. Productions
  5. Scripts


1, 2, & 3 = ways of representing declarative knowledge

4 & 5 = ways of representing procedural knowledge


Conceptual categories – everything we know can be placed under meaningful categories based on perceived similarities (examples vs. non-examples of a concept)

Attributes = similarities or common features required to define a concept

Defining attributes = features essential to defining a concept

Learning a concept involves discovering the defining attributes and discovering the rule or rules that relate the attributes to one another – leads to the formation of hypotheses and the testing of the same by examining attributes and rules

Role of culture? Categorizing abstract concepts?


Consist of concepts

The mental equivalent of statements or assertions (claims) about observed experiences and about the relationships among concepts

Can be judged to be true or false

Meanings emphasized rather than the exact form of information

We retain meaning and not the surface structure of information (these are quickly lost)

Propositions do not stand alone – connected with one another and may be embedded within one another

A complex proposition is usually broken into simpler sentences (‘idea unit’) to enhance understanding of the meaning presented by the proposition

Propositional networks = propositions sharing one or more elements are linked with one another (our ability to comprehend information and to use if effectively in cognitive operations such as problem-solving depends on the quality of networks we are able to create


Mental frameworks that we use to organize knowledge

Control the encoding, storage, and retrieval of information

Data structures that represent knowledge stored in memory

Fundamental to information processing

Represent our knowledge about objects, events, sequences of events, actions, and sequences of actions

When a fresh knowledge is acquired via accommodation (adding) or assimilation (changing and fitting into existing schemata), a new schema is said to be created

Once a new schema is created, its traces serve as a basis of our re-collection – it is part of our long-term memory repository

When schemata are not or cannot be activated during learning, new knowledge cannot be assimilated easily

Memory consists of representations of knowledge, rather than exact copies of it…thus, encoding will vary according to the schemata activated at the time of encoding (learning). In this sense, recall is not simply remembering/recalling stored information…rather, it is re-creating information and events – memory is constructive and re-constructive in nature!

Productions (can be compared to propositions)

‘Condition-action’ rules – actions occur if the specified condition(s) exist

If…then rules

Memory for productions = implicit memory (conscious thought not involved)

Automated skills

Productions are organized in networks called ‘production systems’ – multiple productions may be active at a given time


Production A: If car is locked, then insert key in lock

Production B: If key is inserted in lock, then turn key

Production C: If door unlocks, then return the key to vertical

Production D: If key is vertical, then withdraw key

Scripts (can be compared to schemata)

Provide underlying mental frameworks for our procedural knowledge

Schema representation for events

Contain action sequences and subsequences + actors + objects + characteristics of the setting

Accountable for stereotypical patterns of activity

Copyright September 2006 by Dr. Edward Roy Krishnan,

18 thoughts on “Chapter 3: Long-Term Memory”

  1. The computer age has obviously made it easier for psychologists to describe the process of learning and remembering information. Fascinating reading! I know I reached an age when it was more difficult to recall facts, even in books that I enjoyed reading. Is this something to do with body chemistry? The cross-cultural information that we were taught at Mission Institute was very helpful and reminded me that much of what we consider a ‘fact’ is culturally influenced.

  2. What is the relation between automatic process and implicit memory? i assume that they play the same role in mental process, yet it makes me unclear which one has a greater role in mental process or memory.

  3. Dr. Roy,
    With great respect!
    Whenever we talk about cognitive psychology, it’s always compared with computerlike. Is there any other metaphor or similarity that we can state to compare with our mental processing? One thing that make me doubts is computer operates quicker and more precise than our human information processing system.

  4. Long Term Memory have a big impact in our daily life especially when it come to remembering things. From my own experience, i remember things longer when i relate the information with what i have already see. For example, i still can remember my high school Geography lesson until now because most of the topic that i learned in Geography class, i realte it with my environment. In fact, if we see it from the cognitive perspective the Implicit Memory is used more in this matter but it work together with the Explicit Memory at the same time.

  5. Dr. Roy:

    After learning the long-term memory, I realized how’s wonderful that God made us. Anyway, I still think how long the long-term memory can remeber? Lifetime? Permanent? I don’t think so. I read some researches which said not exactly measure it yet. Maybe it’s also according to people’s experience, healthy, background. Even though the explicit memory and implicit memory are separated, but I think in some ways they are still connected. Also I think we teach our brain to memorize things in their own ways. So when we teach children to remember things, should we tell them to be studying in their own ways. And do not push them in our ways?

  6. Dr. Roy,
    With great respect!
    Whenever we talk about cognitive psychology, it’s always compared with computerlike. Is there any other metaphor or similarity that we can state to compare with our mental processing system? One thing that makes me doubtful is computer operates quicker and more precise than our human information processing system.
    Thank you indeed.

  7. By learning more about long-term memory, it turns my thinking to my own memory, how good my long-term memory works. As it’s name long-term, it takes time more long enough to remember things of what we learn, do, and experience.

  8. When I studied in Biopsychology class, I read a sperical edition about Brian from Scientific American ( There is an article about “Smart Pill”. Smart pill mean the medicine that boost our memory. We can remember longer. It’s due with the icon exchange between synapse. It’s also having the blog ( that we can discussion with other readers.

  9. In response to Mrs Shipton, when people reach a certain age, their bodies start to make less of chemical that the brain needs to work. The older people are, the more these changes can affect their memory. Aging may affect memory by changing the way your brain stores information and by making it harder to recall stored information. Your short term memory may be affected. For example, you find it hard to remember the name of people you met recently.
    There are some ways that can help you to remember:
    1. Lists the things that you need to do in a small note.
    2. Have enough sleep.
    3. Make a detailed calendar.
    4. Put important things in the same place everytime (ex: your key).
    5. Repeat names when you meet new people.

  10. One day I told my wife that I wated to make a special birthday party for her. Do you know what she reply to me? she replied, how will you make me a birthday party? Because you don’t even remember when is my birthday. I was really sad about that. I knew that she won’t tell me if I asked her again, so I told my daughter to ask her.
    From here I came to learn that we will never forget something if we give important to it. So when I become a teacher I will try to make my teaching meaningful to my students and make them feel that it is important for their life.

  11. This week, we talked about the different types of Long-term memory, such as declarative and procedural memory, episodic and semantic memory. I wondered are there gender differences in memory. So I did some research on the internet and found something that very interesting. According Anderson, females are better than males at episodic memory which is personal events that include the time and place the event occurred. That is why girls remeber their boyfriends’ birthday better than boys. 😛
    Females also appear to be better than males in emotionally lined memory, such as memory for an emotional film.
    Males are better than females on tasks that require transformations in visual-spatial working memory. these tasks include mental rotation, which involves the imagined motion of stationary objects, such as what a shape would look like if were rotated in space. what is why man has a better direction-sense than woman.

  12. Now that we know that our brain works in the similar ways as computer does but what kind of building blogs of cognitions does computer use often compared to human brain? We often can measure the capacity of computer hard disk but what unit can be used in measuring human brain capacity? Can I say that my brain has 82GB some thing? Does the capacity of barin depend on the size of the brain? Or can it be more advance like today’s technology devices? Very small but huge capacity.

  13. Long Term Memory is the storage of keeping informations permanently. I think it stores information that is important and meangingful for us. we can even recall something that hurts us or something that made us feel good for so many year ago. for example, we may easily say to somebody who hurts us so painfully that I forgive You, but I am sure that we would be never ,ever forget it because that hurting is already stored in our Long Term Memory. Watch out for LTM

  14. Long term memory is not permanent it is just a memory that stay long and last long in your brain. if it is permanent I think we should change the name of this kind of memory to be permanent memory so we will be studying
    (short term memory & Permanent memory) or
    (short term memory , long term memory and permanent memory)!!!! just an opinion

    because how can we say memory is permanent when there is alzheimer disease…

  15. I’m very much fascinated to know particularly about scripts and productions from this chapter. I recently learnt how do drive. My father was the one who taught me. When he didn’t say anything or instruct anything, I could drive the car smoothly. However, when he told me to do this and that, I started messing up. Through my own experience and opinion, I think that it’s better for us to be allowed to do things on our own without being pressurized or being constantly told to carry out one step after another. Therefore I would strongly suggest as a future teacher, not to pressurize and being too concern about children learning process. One thing we should keep in mind is that teachers are only facilitators. One last thing is that all of us learn from mistakes and it is not a shameful thing to make mistake as long as we are willing not to repeat them again and learn our lessons from those situations.

  16. At the end of the class Cognitive Psychology at least I learn that our brain work complicatedly in learning, thinking, and retrieving information. Our brain just simply lazy if we use it, it will not increase the system. It just like our muscells if we don’t use it, it will not strong. I believe that the more we think we become smarter. When we use our brain in proper way it like we sharpen the knife and use it too. If we dn’t use it we will lose it.

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