Time and Errors in Implicit Memory

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08/02/20 Psychology Reference this

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The expression of past events based on current behavior is considered implicit memory. Here, people recall events based on previous experiences that they were not even aware of. Such a process is distinct from explicit memory since the latter encompasses the conscious attempts by people to retrieve memories of previous occurrences. In essence, the majority of the behaviors that individuals form reflects past learning even though they are not consciously trying to recollect such memories. Priming techniques are the major approaches used in testing the effect of implicit memory. This particular study explores the effect of priming on implicit memory tasks. Here, twenty individuals, who were free from any visual or reading disorders like color blindness and dyslexia were subjected to an implicit memory task. They were to read words that emerged behind a cloud of dots and from a clear background. Their reaction time and the number of errors committed under the old and new conditions were then recorded. A core finding of this study points to the increased difference between the groups based on their response time and errors committed. This enhanced variation is due to the adverse effect that divided attention has on the efficiency of the implicit memory. 

Time and Errors in Implicit Memory


Implicit memory is among the tow core constituents of the long term human memory. In most cases, it is acquired and utilized unconsciously, and it has the capacity to influence thoughts and behaviors. A major form of implicit memory includes procedural memory, which allows individuals to execute particular tasks without having a conscious awareness of these previous encounters. The opposite of implicit memory is explicit memory, which is sometimes referred to as explicit or declarative memory (Keane, Cruz, & Verfaellie, 2015). This memory encompasses the conscious and intentional gathering of factual information, past-experiences, and concepts. Evidence of implicit memory stems from priming where individuals are evaluated based on how these respondents have fostered their execution of tasks that they were subconsciously not ware of (ASheldon & Moskovitch, 2010). Implicit memory causes the illusion-of-truth effect where individuals are most likely to validate statements that they have already encountered irrespective of their truthfulness. Implicit memory manifests in daily life through the form of procedural memory (Walla et al., 1999). Particularly, this kind of memory makes people remember basic life actions such as tying their shoe laces and riding bicycles without necessarily thinking about such tasks. A major finding from the variety of studies conducted by different scholars regarding implicit memory is that its mode of operation is distinct from that of explicit memory.

Detailed studies into the operation of implicit memory stretch back to the 1980s. During the initial studies, participants were provided with distinct words under varying situations and were subjected to two kinds of test, which included the recognition memory and perceptual identification. Core results of these studies highlighted that the consequence of memory on perceptual identification was not reliant on the memory recognition (Walla et al., 1999). According to the studies by Keane et al. (2015), the consequences of perceptual identity imply intensive, context-specific learning. The unconscious implications of memory were considered to modify the subjective encounters of individuals. According to the respondents in a similar study, the white background noise was insignificant when they read the words that they had been provided. This assertion led to the misattribution of their ease in reading and perceiving the words in a surrounding with less noise. In this regard, the statement offers concrete proof of specific and long-living effects of past memory when individuals are not oblivious of its influence (Kane, Picton, Moscovitch, & Winocur, 2000). Identical findings have been unveiled in researches that included respondents who were critical about the complexity of anagrams but were familiar with popular names.

This study, to be precise, explores the effect of implicit memory though employing priming procedures. A host of studies consider implicit memory to be a spate entity. One specific experiment that complements this statement is one where participants were required to listen to a variety of songs and ascertain whether they knew it or not. Half of the group was presented with popular American folk songs while the remaining lot was given songs that originated from the tunes of the songs provided to group 1 but mashed in new lyrics (Walla et al., 1999). From the findings, it was evident that the members of group 1 had increased chances of recognizing the songs as familiar even though the tunes of the songs in both groups were identical. A major pint to note from this study is that individuals make implicit connections even with their memories. A majority of the studies regarding human memory concentrate on associative memory or memories that exist between two entities. However, this particular study highlights that people develop concrete associative links between a song’s tune and its lyrics that they are unable to separate later (Kane et al., 2000). Some hints to the anatomical foundation of implicit memory have emanated from previous studies that make comparisons between the distinct forms of dementia. People that suffer from the dementia of the Alzheimer type (DAT) have been considered to have adverse implications on priming tasks (Keane et al., 2015). Contrarily, individuals that had Huntington’s disease (HD) demonstrated normal priming capabilities.

According to the studies by Boehm, Sommer, & Lueschow (2005), the issue of whether single or multiple systems are the underlying pillars of both implicit and explicit memory is still not resolved. The results of such studies have left several gaps that up to date, no theory has accounted for all the observations. However, recent developments in neuropsychology regarding the organization of memeory enable us to hypothesize that synaptical cortical and subcortical networks are the essential constructs of unconscious mental functions. Over the years, researchers have advanced two approaches to studying implicit memory. The first approach entails offering a description of the features linked with explicit memory. If an individual with a normal working memory can execute a task such as remembering a list of words, they are recalling a memory in a conscious state (Boehm et al., 2005). The second approach to studying implicit memory does not rely on a conscious or an unconscious response. Instead, it depends on a variety of independent variables that interfere with a person’s implicit or explicit memory.



Twenty individuals regardless of their gender were picked to take part in this implicit memory task. The individual selected to participate in this experiment lacked any visual or reading conditions such as colorblindness or dyslexia. As well, they were free from any other disorder that would interfere with their ability to execute the imply memory task effectively. The test subjects were then positioned in two different environments: one that was full of attention (old) and one that had divided attention (new). The participants were then familiarized with the contents of the study. Thereafter a verbal consent was obtained from each of the test objects. They were expected to take twenty trials


Word stimulus was the predominant type of stimuli that all the twenty participants were subjected to in this implicit memory task. Here, the respondents were asked to recognize the word that appeared between the dots and their reaction time was recorded.


Before beginning the implicit memory task, the general contents of the entire experiment were provided to the participants. They were required to read and understand carefully so that they could be familiar with what they were expected to do. The test subjects were then required to read a set of words that appeared behind a cloud of dots amidst different conditions. The first condition (old) was filled with attention since the participants could read the words without interference. The second condition (new) had interferences that affected the ease with which the respondents could read the words behind the dots. After reading the set of words, the memories of each of the participant were tested through a simple implicit memory task. In contrast to other explicit memory assessments, the participants were not asked about the words that they remembered. Instead, the time taken to identify the words as well as the amount of errors made in identifying the words was recorded. These two metrics acted as a measure of memory.


To investigate whether there was an effect of being primed on response time, we timed twenty participants in sixty trials of an implicit memory task, and thereafter, determined the average response time for each trial conducted by the test subjects. We then undertook an independent samples t-test on the personal mean times per trial for the old (M=3884, SD=457.29) and the new (M=4049, SD=464.05) conditions (Figure 1). A huge variation was noted between the groups (t(19) = 4.346, p < .05)

Figure 1: A Graph of Time (MS) Against Condition for the Average Response Time

To explore whether there was an effect of being primed on the number of errors committed, we recorded the accumulative amount of errors made by each of the twenty participants in sixty trials of an implicit memory task. We then conducted an independent samples t-test on the amount of errors committed by each person in the old (M=1.10, SD=1.02) and new (M=1.40, SD=1.39) conditions (Figure 2). For this case, a huge difference was noticed between the groups (t(19) =0.754, p > .05).

Figure 2: A Graph of Errors Against Condition for the Total Errors per Person


The results of this experiment indicate that there was a significant difference between the old and new conditions based on their response time and errors committed when completing the implicit memory task. Particularly, the results of this experiment are consistent with other studies that involve picture naming. The primary aspect of the current findings is that the level of performance that is linked to the prior exposure of stimuli is eliminated when individuals are primed in surroundings that have divided attention. Such a scenario is the reason behind the increased difference between the twenty participants when they are primed according to their response time as well as the amount of errors committed when they perform the implicit memory task (Kane et al., 2000).

Before evaluating the further implications of this study, it is important to acknowledge the fact that the results in this experiment pose as essential constructs of the differential availability of explicit memory under both the old and new conditions. Mostly, people have argued that performance in priming tasks provide insight into the operation of explicit as opposed implicit memory processes. For instance, some scholars assert that participants thatsuffer from amnesia fail to exhibit priming-induced effects, which interfere with the findings of the entire experiment since they act as a manifestation of explicit memory rather than implicit memory (Sheldon & Moscovitch, 2010). Hence, in future studies, it is important to ensure that performance costs are eliminated under any conditions that are linked with a reduction in explicit memory. Doing so will enhance the accuracy of the results that are particularly linked with implicit memory. On the whole, the prevailing convention is that the capacity to recall an event varies based on the extent to which an individual was attentive when a particular activity unfolded (Boehm et al., 2005). However, scholars have advanced various studies to disprove this notion claiming that an interference with attention affects the efficiency of implicit memory.


  • Boehm, S. G., Sommer, W., & Lueschow, A. (2005). Correlates of implicit memory for words and faces in event-related brain potentials. International Journal of Psychophysiology55(1), 95-112.
  • Kane, K. A., Picton, T. W., Moscovitch, M., & Winocur, G. (2000). Event-related potentials during conscious and automatic memory retrieval. Cognitive Brain Research10(1-2), 19-35.
  • Keane, M. M., Cruz, M. E., & Verfaellie, M. (2015). Attention and implicit memory: priming-induced benefits and costs have distinct attentional requirements. Memory & cognition43(2), 216-225.
  • Sheldon, S. A., & Moscovitch, M. (2010). Recollective performance advantages for implicit memory tasks. Memory18(7), 681-697.
  • Walla, P., Endl, W., Lindinger, G., Deecke, L., & Lang, W. (1999). Implicit memory within a word recognition task: an event-related potential study in human subjects. Neuroscience letters269(3), 129-132.
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