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What is Declarative Memory?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Declarative memory is the part of long term memory which is concerned with the storage of factual information, in contrast with procedural memory, which is involved with the storage of the physical memory of how to do something. Put simply, when you tie your shoes, procedural memory is the part of the memory which allows you to remember how to tie your shoes, while declarative memory is the part of the memory where you store the information like the word “shoe,” and the memory of learning to tie your shoes.

The region of the brain where declarative memory is stored is the temporal lobe. There are two basic forms of declarative memory: episodic and semantic. Episodic memories are linked with particular times and places, and could be considered personal memories, such as experiences of certain events. Semantic memory is the memory concerned with the storage of factual information which is not linked to a particular experience.

People can access information in their declarative memory through the process of recall. Recall can often be imperfect, especially when the acquisition of a memory is surrounded by stress or intense emotions, or when a memory is not accessed very regularly. Witnesses to crimes, for example, often give differing accounts at different times because their episodic memory recall is less than perfect, while someone who learned all the capitals of the world in elementary school might have trouble recalling them 40 years later because he or she hasn't accessed that particular semantic memory in a long time.

People with damage to their temporal lobes can experience problems with their declarative memory. Some people may find it difficult to acquire new information, or to recall certain information. Amnesia, in which people have difficulty recalling memories, can be short term or persistent, depending on the type of amnesia involved, and it may be quite debilitating for the patient.

The only way to make declarative memory stronger is to use it. People who learn things by rote and repetition and who repeatedly drill this information will be more likely to recall it in the future. This is why rote learning is such a popular method of teaching people, as are teaching techniques which force people to shuffle and recall memories in new ways. For example, someone learning Spanish would learn the verb conjugations by rote, and practice their use in routine conversation to strengthen their abilities to recall conjugations quickly and accurately.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By DentalFloss — On Nov 07, 2010

When talking about rote learning to improve memory, it's important to note that this will only improve certain forms of memory. Higher level thinking, like critical thinking, associative thinking, problem solving, et cetera, are all needed to really both remember what you learn and to be able to apply it to your life. @FernValley, I also have heard that we have unlimited memory, but if we do not connect all of these things we learn together critically, memory tips alone cannot help improve our process of encoding memory.

By FernValley — On Nov 07, 2010

When I studied psychology, we were told by our professor that contrary to popular belief, you cannot really "lose" memories; both declarative and procedural memory have endless stores, we just need to work on memory tips to help us recall what we put into our heads.

By anon72763 — On Mar 24, 2010

No mention of the effects of aging on anterograde amnesia?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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