Implicit Memory

Couple bicyclingImplicit memory stands in contrast to explicit memory and is memory that is not consciously recalled and is produced via indirect processes. It is also referred to as nondeclarative memory. Most memories stored in implicit memory are procedural memories.

Examples of Implicit Memory

Because people do not consciously recall memories stored in implicit memory, it can be difficult to note when one is using this form of memory. Examples of implicit memory include:

  • Remembering the words to a song and finishing a line of a song when someone sings the first two words
  • Recalling how to walk, ride a bike, and engage in other procedural tasks

Some mental health professionals use implicit memory to refer to emotional activation that does not require conscious recall of a memory. For example, when a particular scent causes you to feel a particular emotion, even though you are not consciously recalling the event associated with the emotion that the scent triggered.

Implicit Memory Tests

Because implicit memory is not conscious memory, its existence is more difficult to demonstrate than explicit memory. Researchers have, however, devised several tests to demonstrate implicit memory. For example, researchers might give subjects a series of unrelated words and fragments to study. When the subjects are later given portions of these fragments, they are more likely to complete them, even though the information originally presented is incoherent and the participants do not consciously remember it. Other studies have demonstrated that people are more likely to believe familiar statements than unfamiliar ones. Many advertisers aim to take advantage of this effect of implicit memory by frequently repeating information.

Implicit Association Test

The Implicit Association Test tests subjects’ implicit associations between groups of people and stereotypes, and has been used to measure racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination. It encourages subjects to make snap judgments without allowing them time to think about these judgments. Subjects who do not verbalize discriminatory thoughts frequently end up with results indicating discriminatory implicit associations.


  1. American Psychological Association. APA Concise Dictionary of Psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2009. Print.
  2.  Colman, A. M. (2006). Oxford dictionary of psychology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Last Updated: 08-10-2015

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