Difference between Implicit and Explicit Memory

Published on June 13, 2015

Memory is a fluid and dynamic system that has been divided into two categories to make it easier to study and understand. Implicit and explicit memories are both categorized according to the realms of information that they process and store.


Implicit vs Explicit Memory

Explicit memory, also known as declarative memory, can be intentionally and consciously recollected and is divided into two main sub-categories. Episodic memories are personal events that can be remembered and semantic memories are facts and figures that can be consciously recalled. Episodic memories are recalled events that are happenings personal to an individual. like what they had for breakfast or the experience of their last holiday, while semantic memory is more concerned with figures like the date of the birthday of an individual or the year the country gained independence.

Implicit memory, also called procedural memory, cannot be recalled consciously as it is more of a functional and experiential memory. Though it is not consciously recalled because of being ‘under the radar,’ once it is put into practice, everything just falls into place as the mind retraces the manner in which the exercise is carried out under such circumstances. Implicit memory is also divided into subcategories: priming, where prior exposure influences later testing, and procedural that occurs as a result of repetition-induced motor memories, and conditioning associated with the linking of unrelated stimuli and responses.

Comparison chart

Implicit memoryExplicit memory
Reading reversed textIdentifying the head of state
Singing along to a favorite songWriting a term paper
Mirror tracingRemembering previous years

Implicit vs Explicit Memory

What is the difference between implicit and explicit memory?

  • Explicit memory is retrieved consciously while implicit memory is retrieved unconsciously once an individual has started engaging in something that requires the retrieval of the memory. An example is how to balance a bicycle after an individual has started riding.
  • 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. Implicit memory helps old people as they are able to retrace in their minds the familiar environments they are used to and their daily routines as they age. These help them in accomplishing their daily tasks. However, it becomes very difficult for them to survive when placed in new environments like nursing homes.


For more details about implicit and explicit memory, watch this video: