What Is a Memory Type? (With List of Types and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 6, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Most job roles in companies require retentive memory to perform basic and critical tasks. Having a good memory also helps improve important workplace skills like critical thinking, analytical thinking, and organizational skills. Understanding the different types of memories and how to improve them can help you optimize your workplace performance on tasks that require memory retention.

In this article, we define what a memory type is and its importance, review the different types of memory, and provide tips for improving memory retention in the workplace.

What is a memory type?

A memory type is a form in which the brain stores details of events, processes, and memories from experiences over time. Memory is a person's cognitive ability to capture, process, store, and retrieve information for a period. There are three broad types of memories, which are long-term memory, short-term memory, and sensory memory. There are three stages involved in building memory, which are encoding, storage, and recall.

The encoding stage occurs first and involves registering external stimuli through any of the five senses. In the second stage, the brain stores short-term memories like sensory memories or long-term. The final stage involves the brain's ability to retrieve memory from storage. Understanding the different types of memory helps you determine the best learning processes and procedures for different job roles.

It can also help you remember the procedures and processes you require to undertake tasks and complete them. Optimizing memory can also help you adapt properly to a work environment, adhere to instructions, take notes, and solve problems faster.

Read more: What Is Cognitive Ability? Definition and Examples

Types of memory in the workplace

The different types of memory that may be important in developing strategies in the workplace are:

Short-term memory

Short-term memory refers to the brain's system that stores the information you may require within a short time. Short-term memory is usually the first point of information storage for most people. It allows a person to store information for a short period and then either transfer it to long-term memory or discard the information. This memory typically stores information for an average of 20 to 30 seconds. For instance, you may use short-term memory to store such information as data values you add manually to a spreadsheet and employee names you gather as you walk across the office floor.

Long-term memory

Long-term memory, or reference memory, allows you to store information over a long period ranging from a few hours to a lifetime. This memory contains events, facts, or processes. It also contains information that you use to perform major tasks. Long-term memory can hold information indefinitely depending on different factors like use frequency. Examples of information you may store in long-term memory are an essential workplace strategy learnt years ago, personal information required in HR form, and different Excel functions necessary for your role.

Explicit long-term memory

Explicit memory is a type of memory that stores information you made a conscious effort to remember. Explicit, conscious, or declarative memory usually contains general knowledge, specific events, or facts. For example, you use explicit memory to remember work instructions or study materials for exams. You may also store such information as the company's contact information, work projects, or names of your team members in the explicit memory.

Implicit long-term memory

Details in implicit memory form sub-consciously and contribute heavily to how a person behaves and thinks. Implicit memory stores information you require to learn a motor skill like riding a bike, driving, or scooting. This information remains in your memory for long periods and subconsciously manifests when you pick up an old habit. Examples of implicit memories include remembering how to operate a workplace device or machinery and knowing how to construct a specific item.

Episodic memory

Episodic memories stores information based on people's perceptions of life experiences. This type of memory includes the specific details of events like date and time, people you met, events that occurred, and personal emotions and sensations connected with the event. Usually, details of the event in your episodic memory may change over time to become less accurate as your memory adapts to the new contexts that you remember. Some instances of episodic memories include memories of your first job role, a one-time meeting with a role model, or your first corporate presentation.

Semantic memory

Semantic memory is a long-term memory that stores general facts and knowledge. It's also a subset of explicit memory where you store ideas, events, and processes from non-personal experiences. Some examples of semantic memories are using a pen, stringing sentences together to create a coherent sentence, and learning how to use a phone or computer.

Implicit memory

Implicit memories are a major type of long-term memory where you store information that helps you process motor skills. Accessing information from this memory doesn't require any conscious effort as it comes as a reflex. Instead, it helps you perform functions actively, thinking about them, or explaining the process. Examples of implicit memory include talking in a native language, breathing, walking, driving, and eating.

Working memory

Working memory contributes primarily to developing a person's cognitive abilities and learning. It stores information that a person frequently recalls when undergoing a learning process. You may use your working memory when performing a function that requires you to recall details from memory. Examples include remembering details of a schedule list when delivering a mail. It can include recalling the effects of an update when modifying the elements in a software project.

Visual-spatial memory

A visual-spatial memory stores information by analyzing, perceiving, manipulating, and transforming images and visual patterns. This type of memory allows you to store information to identify specific situations and locate items as a visual representation. For example, instances of visual-spatial memory in a workplace are remembering your office location and that of your coworkers, recalling the restroom, and remembering your former office design.

Sensory memory

Sensory memory stores information based on a brief and automatic impression of an event you registered in your senses. It's a type of memory that helps you recall a stimulus heavily after experiencing it. It also has a short retention span as it quickly transfers information to another memory form. It's usually the starting point for other types of memory as it first creates impressions of stimulus. Sensory memories can be haptic, which includes touch feelings like pain or pressure or iconic, which includes visual senses, or echoic, which relates to auditory senses.

Some examples of an echoic sensory memory in a workplace are recognizing a coworker's voice or remembering the sound of a printing machine. Examples of haptic sensory memory include recognizing how a coworker's handshake feels or the best position of your work table and chair for optimized productivity. Finally, an example of an iconic memory includes recognizing that reduced outdoor lighting signals the end of work.

Tips for improving memory in the workplace

Some tips you may adopt to optimize memory in a workplace include:

Play brain games

You may encourage brain games in the workplace to enhance memory retention and cognitive development. Brain games help you exercise your mind and sharpen brain activities. They also help challenge the mind to optimize memory storage and assist in processing information faster. Examples of brain games include brain teasers and puzzles.

Use mnemonic techniques

Incorporating mnemonics in your learning process helps you remember facts or details faster. The two types of mnemonic techniques you may use to enhance memory retention are:

Acronym system

You can remember details faster by using the first letters of words to form an acronym. Remembering the first letters of these words helps you remember the entire details of items in the set. For example, SMART is an acronym that represents Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based goals.

Related: How to Stay Organized by Using a To-Do List With Reminders

Peg-word system

The peg-word system helps you associate details you want to remember with other familiar words and concepts that are easier to remember. This pegging process may involve creating a daily to-do list with numbered responsibilities and selecting a word that rhymes with the number associated with a task. For instance, if your to-do list includes a deadline in the morning, lunch meeting, and late work call, you may represent them with the words Due, Food, and Late, respectively.

Read more: The Benefits of Using Daily To-Do Lists to Attain Your Goals

Prioritize your health

Healthy habits may contribute to enhanced brain functioning and memory retention. Consider eating healthy foods and scheduling time for daily movement. This can help improve your mood and may help you focus on your tasks more effectively, improving your memory function

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