Episodic Memory, what is it?

Episodic Memory, what is it?

Memory is one of the most studied processes in the field of psychology. It is a concept that over the years has increased its theoretical corpus and new discoveries have been found. The episodic memory It belongs to one of these findings that, thanks to experimental psychology, today we can know what it is.

Memory is not just about remembering a face or a phone number. It is also involved in speech, since if we do not remember the words it would be impossible to communicate. Even in something as simple as eating. Some patients with very advanced Alzheimer's have to feed them because they forget how to do it. So that the memory is more complex and more extensive than initially thought.


  • 1 Who has not happened?
  • 2 Locating the episodic memory
  • 3 Description of the episodic memory
  • 4 Final reflection

Who has not happened?

It's 08:00 in the morning. We are facing the mirror. We look from top to bottom. We do not have a good time. Looking at our reflection we remember better moments. We remember people who were by our side and are gone. Friends who left, couples who left us, relatives who died. We relive all those moments with intensity. Nostalgia invades us, the memory, and we fall a little down. We go to the kitchen, we prepare a coffee and we charge ourselves with energy to face a new day.

For a few minutes we have reviewed most of our lives. We have made a journey from better times to the present. And we do it without leaving a relevant detail. We are able to remember and analyze all the episodes of our life. Without a doubt, we are making use of our memory. Thanks to her we can have our whole life stored in our minds. But what kind of memory are we using? Let's see it.

Locating the episodic memory

The memory It is not a unique process although it may seem so. Rather, it is a memory system or memory processes that act together. These processes allow us acquire information, store it and retrieve it when we require it. Sherry and Schacter (1987) define memory as "an interaction between acquisition, retention and recovery mechanisms".

Since he began studying memory he has distinguished himself between long term memory Y short term memory. Since episodic memory is located in long-term memory, we will enter it and it is classified into two systems: implicit memory (or not declarative) and explicit memory (or declarative).

"Memory is a cognitive function that allows the human being to record the different
information that reaches the brain, store them and use them whenever


On the one hand, the implicit or non-declarative memory It is one in which the ability to remember is carried out without the need for conscience. Its effects are observed through the improvement in the execution of the tasks we practice. On the other hand, the explicit or declarative memory It results from a conscious reflection of previous experiences or knowledge. In this type of memory we consciously access its contents.

Schacter and Tulving (1994) within the declarative memory distinguished two types: episodic memory Y semantic memory. Tulving (1972) described the semantic memory how "knowledge about words and concepts". The episodic memory He defined it as "conscious awareness of events or episodes temporarily dated, spatially located and personally experienced".

Description of the episodic memory

Entering fully into the episodic memory different authors claim that it reflects a specific aspect temporal space that integrates sensory, cognitive and emotional images. However, Tulving also highlights the union of subjective time, the autonoetic awareness and the need for the existence of a self. For Tulving, without a doubt, the most important aspect of this memory is the autonoetic awareness that allows us to have the feeling that we are living our memories, that is, we experience the events again. Tulving ensures that we travel mentally back in time.

"The episodic memory refers to the memory of specific events that occurred in our lives with temporal and contextual references."


Episodic memory is studied through tasks of recognition or free memory. In this type of tasks, the subject must study, for example, a series of words in a given context so that he later remembers or recognizes the information presented in that context. Neuroimaging studies (Cabeza and Nyberg, 2000) show that the right prefrontal cortex It is related to episodic recovery.

However, this autobiographical memory may be affected in patients with Alzheimer's. This can be seen in the difficulty acquiring new episodic knowledge and is attributed to the disconnection of the hippocampus and sensory analysis systems.Patients with this advanced disease are unable to remember past events and relive them. Phrases like "I don't remember living it", highlight the inability to relive past events. They can no longer travel mentally to the past.

Final reflection

In spite of all the scientific advances and all the investigations at the cerebral level, there is still much to discover. The brain remains a great enigma. Gradually, light is shed on the different mental processes that allow us to move through life and remember who we are when we look in the mirror.

However, although there is still a lot of research ahead, it is known that the brain is a muscle. What does this mean? Than can be trained. Therefore, if we strengthen our brain through different activities we can prevent early deterioration. Walking, sports, reading, learning a new language, learning to play an instrument, etc. Any stimulating activity will keep our brain young and in this way we will slow down natural aging.


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