Implicit Memory - What it is and How to test it

Implicit memory (""non-declarative"" memory) is a type of long-term memory in which previous experiences aid the performance of a task without their conscious awareness.

What is implicit memory? Elucidate the tests of implicit memory.

Implicit memory ('non-declarative' memory) is a type of long-term memory in which previous experiences aid the performance of a task without their conscious awareness. This memory isn't easy to verbalize, since it flows effortlessly in our actions.

Procedural Memory - type of implicit memory that enables us to carry out commonly learned tasks like riding a bike, tying a shoe and washing dishes without consciously thinking about them. It's our 'how to' knowledge.

Priming - a process whereby subjects are measured by how they have improved their performance on tasks for which they have been subconsciously prepared. You are 'primed' by your experiences; if you have heard something very recently, or many more times than another thing, you are primed to recall it more quickly. In the brain, the neural pathways representing things we have experienced more often are more salient than those for things with which we have fewer experiences.

Tests of Implicit Memory

In these tests the subjects are asked to respond to stimuli without referring to prior events. They include:

  1. Perceptual memory tests - challenge the perceptual system by presenting impoverished test stimuli to which participants respond. Examples:
    1. Word stem completion test – the word stem is provided and subject is asked to complete it. 
    2. Word identification test - presenting words very briefly and having participants guess what they are
    3. Word/Picture fragment completion - naming words from fragments such as l_p_a_t or completing pictures.
      The measure in all cases is priming–as reflected by more accurate or faster completion of the target when it has been studied relative to when it has not been studied.
  2. Conceptually driven tests - lay emphasis on meaning of the events, when people are trying to retrieve past events. Examples:
    1. General knowledge test: Responses to questions such are 'What is the name of the ship that carried the pilgrims to America in 1620?'
    2. Free association tests: 'say the first word that you think of to the stimulus word tusk'
    3. Category association tests: 'list as many African animals as you can in thirty seconds'.
  3. Procedural memory Tests - aspire to assess procedural memory – a subset of implicit memory. Examples:
    1. Pursuit rotor task - participant follows a moving object with a cursor or stylus (on a computer). 
    2. Serial reaction time task - observes the speed and accuracy of the participant's ability to retain and acquire new skills. 
    3. Mirror tracing task: Participants learn a new motor skill involving hand–eye coordination - to draw the image in the mirror.
    4. Weather prediction task: Participants are asked to predict the outcome of a card game.

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Implicit memory aids the performance of a task without its conscious awareness. It results in priming. The three types of tests for implicit memory are: Perceptual memory tests such as word identification test, conceptually driven tests such as free association tests and Procedural memory tests such as Mirror Tracing Task.


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