Difference Between Short Term and Long Term Memory

According to various scientific findings, memory is the retention of previous experience which influences future action. It is an ability of the brain which encodes and store information for future retrieval when needed.

Many experts believe after experiencing any event the brain takes a different process to store that information. Initially, it stores the information in the sensory stage; right after that it stores the information as short-term memory and it records some memories as long-term memory.

Neuron cells in the brain play an important role in the formation of memory. It controls the explicit and implicit functioning of memories.

As a sensory processor, neuron cells sense the event through chemical and physical stimuli. It also analyzes various grades of focus and intent.

After analyzing various matrices Neuron cells decide which information is essential and which one is not.

Short Term vs Long Term Memory

The difference between Short Term and Long Term Memory is that Short term memory is the ability to store small amounts of information in the brain that occurred in the recent past. Long term memory is a long-lasting ability of the brain to store information from the past.

Short Term vs Long Term Memory


Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonShort Term MemoryLong Term Memory
DurationThe duration of short term memory is short. Generally, the duration of memory lasts from a few seconds to several minutes. As time progress the brain erases short term memories.The duration of the long term lasts for quite a long period. For some people, it can last for a lifetime. With the progression of time, people can recall these memories when needed.
CapacityThe capacity of short term memory is small without any rehearsal. According to various scientific experiments it has been established that without any rehearsal brain can only store 2 to 7 items at a time.The capacity of Long term memory is unlimited. However, it may vary from people to people and it also depends on the severity and rehearsal during the development of any long term memory.
UsefulnessEveryone experience the usefulness of short term memory in daily life. Where we gather information for regular menial tasks.The usefulness of long term memory can be experienced during the planning and execution of any complicated task. Where a person recalls previous information to plan and execute any task.
ImprovementChunking can improve short term memoryRehearsal and repetitive tasks improve long term memory.
HarmNeurodegenerative diseases can cause damage to short term memory.A sudden head injury can cause damage to long term memory.


What is Short Term Memory?

Short term memory is a type of information that can remain in the brain for a few seconds to a minute without any rehearsal. Most people use this memory for daily tasks without giving much attention to it.

Therefore, many neuroscientists also refer to it as working memory.

The capacity of short term memory is limited. According to various research data, scientists believe that the brain can only hold 2 to 7 items at any given time. However, the exact number is still debatable.

Various interventions like distraction and disease may also affect the capacity of short term memory. It has been found that the noisy environment also affects the capacity of short term memory span in the brain.

Similarly, various diseases like Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, aphasia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and advanced age may also affect short term memory span.

On the other hand, activities like rehearsal and chunking also may improve the capacity of short term memory. For this reason, many countries write phone & credit card numbers in the chunk.

It helps the brain process more information at any given time.

short term memory

What is Long Term Memory?

Long term memories derive from working/ short term memories. When a memory lasts longer than a minute for a prolonged time it is called long term memory.

Unlike the computer’s hard disk drive, the human brain stores memory in different parts of the brain.

After lots of research, scientists have classified long term memory into two major segments. These are explicit and implicit memory.

Explicit memory is processed by the hippocampus, perirhinal cortex, and entorhinal cortex of the brain. It is consciously available all the time.

Where implicit memory generates from the physical movement of the body. As an example, swimming, cycling, and driving is a part of implicit memory.

Explicit memory is segmented in three different parts. These parts are episodic memory, semantic memory, and autobiographical memory.

Most long term memory generates from reparative tasks and rehearsal. Here multiple practices develop long term memory.

However, traumatic brain injury and neuro-degenerative diseases can also affect long term memories.

long term memory

Main Differences Between Short Term and Long Term Memory

  1. The primary difference between short and long term memory is the capacity. The human brain can only store 2 to 7 information as short term memory, where it can remember limitless items as long term memory.
  2. Another difference between short and long term memory is duration. The duration of short term memory is only for a few seconds to a minute. However, the duration of long term memory can be over multiple minutes.
  3. The ability to store short term memory can be enhanced by chunking. Where the ability to store long term memory can be enhanced by reparative tasks and rehearsal.
  4. Most people erase short term memory from their brain quickly, However, they store long term memories for years (even for a lifetime).
  5. Short term memory is very useful in daily tasks, where the brain processes various tasks without emphasizing them. On the other hand, long term memories are useful in planning and executing complicated tasks.


  1. https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/18/5/681.short
  2. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1998-11364-005
  3. https://www.jneurosci.org/content/jneuro/30/39/13066.full.pdf
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