Types of Memory and Its Functions

There are certain differences between short-term and long-term types of memory that are based on specifics of the performed functions and processes. It is also important to note that short-term memory and long-term memory can function differently depending on an individual’s age (Windsor, 2015).

While discussing other aspects associated with these types of memory and typical differences, it is also necessary to consider various disorders that can affect the memory function.

The short-term memory can be described as the brain’s capacity to store about seven items in the memory for a short period of time. This information is kept in the memory till it is used by a person. The example is the focus on a telephone number only for several seconds in order to repeat it or write it down.

On the contrary, the long-term memory is associated with an individual’s ability to remember facts, events, and experiences and develop skills and knowledge.

As a result, this information can be stored in the memory during a long period of time, including an individual’s whole life (Cameron, Jelinek, Kelly, Murray, & Brown, 2014). Examples of using the long-term memory include references to past events, impressions, and previously learned and developed skills.

From this point, it is important to note that the capacity of the short-term memory is significantly limited in comparison to the long-term memory. In addition, different parts of the brain are responsible for individuals’ short-term memory and long-term memory, as it is evidenced in the studies involved patients with different types of amnesia (Windsor, 2015).

Thus, the short-term memory allows a person to perform sequential actions and apply the information required for working or performing certain functions during a concrete period of time. The long-term memory allows a person to collect and store the information about his or her habits, skills, and preferences (Cameron et al., 2014).

Thus, the long-term memory allows people to learn new facts and materials. From this point, the short-term memory is associated with remembering the information related to the present. On the contrary, the long-term memory is associated with retrieving the information from an individual’s past.

Differences between short-term memory and long-term memory are also related to methods of retrieving information. The retrieval of information from the short-term memory is predetermined by certain stimuli that are associated with a person’s need to perform a certain action.

Researchers distinguish between phonological and visual-spatial systems that represent the short-term memory and allow for operating different types of data (Cameron et al., 2014; Windsor, 2015).

The retrieval of information from the long-term memory can be caused by the necessity of answering the question and demonstrating knowledge or by an emotion and an association (Cameron et al., 2014). In addition, people can retrieve visual, audial, and other types of data with a different speed.

While concluding on the differences between two types of memory, it is also important to note that frequent repetitions of certain information contribute to its moving to the long-term memory because the short-term memory is temporary in its nature.

When a person knows how to develop his or her short-term and long-term memory, he or she can succeed because of adapting approaches to learning information and using data for certain operations. However, it is also important to pay attention to the fact that the qualities and capacity of the short-term and long-term memory decrease as a result of aging.


Cameron, P., Jelinek, G., Kelly, A. M., Murray, L., & Brown, A. F. (2014). Textbook of adult emergency medicine (4th ed.). New York, NY: Elsevier Health Sciences.

Windsor, R. (2015). Evaluation of health promotion and disease prevention programs: Improving population health through evidence-based practice (5th ed.). London, UK: Oxford University Press.

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