An essential part of life is being able to recall what happened earlier, whether that’s seconds, days or even years ago. This process of recollection — our memory — has various aspects, with each one taking in information, storing it and accessing it as needed. There are three types of memory that we continually call upon: long-term memory, short-term memory and sensory memory.

When We Were Kids… – Long-Term Memory

This form of memory functions as our brain’s deep storage. Information is retained, managed and retrieved via long-term memory, which can endure for years — even a lifetime in some cases — and has nearly limitless capacity. Mnemonic devices, such as ROYGBIV for remembering the colors of the rainbow, may aid this process.

Under the umbrella of long-term memory are two main categories:

Declarative Memories: Also called explicit memories, these involve conscious recollection. When you say, “Let me think,” and seek to call up a certain image or idea, that’s declarative memory. The category is further divided into episodic memories, which are remembered within a specific context, such as location and time, and semantic memories, which consist of general knowledge, such as learned facts.

Procedural Memories: These memories, sometimes referred to as implicit memories, are rooted in conditioning and are unconsciously activated. When we unlock a door or tie our shoelaces, those are procedural memories.

What Was That Number? – Short-Term Memory

Short-term memory deals with recall during a very limited amount of time. Fittingly also called working memory, it retains information that is actively going through our minds. After about a minute, it is either switched to long-term memory and filed there or set aside. Addresses and phone numbers often fall into the short-term range if we only need them briefly.

Gone in a Flash – Sensory Memory

This kind of memory involves the momentary unconscious recall of sensory information, particularly images, sounds and touches. For a sensory memory, such as a quick burst of light, to linger longer, it must be transferred to short-term memory.

How well will you remember these varied types of memory? Hopefully, they’ll find their way into your long-term memory, and you can impress family and friends with your mnemonic knowledge.