Explicit Memory

Explicit memory, also referred to as declarative memory, is conscious long-term memory that is easily and intentionally recalled and recited. It stands in contrast to implicit memory, which is an indirect, unconscious form of memory. Information from explicit memory is usually retrieved in response to a specific prompt such as, “How was your day?” or, “What is the scientific method?”

Examples of Explicit Memory

There are two types of explicit memory:

  1. Episodic memory is the recall of life events, and includes autobiographical memory–for example, autobiographical information such as name, age, date of birth, childhood memories, and family relationships.
  2. Semantic memory is all non-biographical explicit memory, such as conscious memory of formulas and problem-solving strategies or facts such as statistics and figures.

Most types of information colloquially referred to as memories are examples of explicit memory.

How are Explicit Memories Made?

Explicit memories are formulated via a process of encoding and retrieval. In the encoding phase, people “record” the information in their brain using a variety of techniques ranging from conscious memorization to the unconscious association that often occurs with the encoding of autobiographical information. Frequent rehearsal such as the frequent discussion of daily events can help people encode memories and help the memories remain clearer and more accurate. Retrieval is the process by which a person accesses the memory, and is usually sparked when some association is made with the memory. The association can be specific to the memory such as, “Provide a list of elements” or may be more general and include stimuli that the person associates with the memory.


  1. American Psychological Association. APA Concise Dictionary of Psychology. Washington, DC:American Psychological Association, 2009. Print.
  2. Harwood, R., Miller, S. A., & Vasta, R. (2008). Child psychology: Development in a changing society. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
  3. Siegel, D. J. (1999). The developing mind: Toward a neurobiology of interpersonal experience. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Last Updated: 08-7-2015

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