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 the brain’s ability to encode and store information for future retrieval when needed.


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

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

As sensory processors, 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.

Key Takeaways

  1. Short-term memory is the temporary storage of information that lasts a few seconds to a minute. In contrast, long-term memory is the more permanent information storage that can last from minutes to a lifetime.
  2. Short-term memory has a limited capacity and typically holds 5 to 9 items, while long-term memory has a seemingly unlimited capacity.
  3. The process of encoding, storage, and retrieval differs between short-term and long-term memory, with rehearsal and meaningful associations playing a significant role in transferring information from short-term to long-term memory.

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 the long-lasting ability of the brain to accumulate data from the past.

Short Term vs Long Term Memory

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Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonShort Term MemoryLong Term Memory
DurationThe duration of short-term memory is short. Generally, the memory period lasts from a few seconds to several minutes. As time progresses, the brain erases short-term memories.The duration of the long-term lasts for quite an extended 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. Various scientific experiments have established that the brain can only store 2 to 7 items at a time without trial.The capacity of Long term memory is unlimited. However, it may vary from person to person and also depends on the severity and rehearsal during the development of any long-term memory.
UsefulnessEveryone experiences using 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 enhance 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 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 paying much attention.

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 the brain can only hold 2 to 7 items at any time. However, the exact number is still debatable.

Various interventions like distraction and disease may also affect the short-term memory capacity. It has been found that a noisy environment also affects the ability 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 short-term memory capacity. 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 much research, scientists have classified long-term memory into two major segments. These are explicit and implicit memory.

The brain’s hippocampus, perirhinal cortex, and entorhinal cortex process explicit memory. It is consciously available all the time.

Where implicit memory generates from the body’s physical movement; for example, swimming, cycling, and driving are part of implicit memory.

Explicit memory is segmented into 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 capacity. The human brain can only store 2 to 7 pieces of information as short-term memory, whereas 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 a few seconds to a minute. However, the time of long-term memory can be over multiple minutes.
  3. The ability to store short-term memory can be enhanced by chunking, whereas reparative tasks and rehearsal can enhance the ability to keep long-term memory.
  4. Most people erase short-term memory from their brains quickly. However, they store long-term memories for years (even for a lifetime).
  5. Short-term memory is instrumental in daily tasks, where the brain processes various tasks without emphasizing them. On the other hand, long-term memories help plan and execute complicated tasks.
Difference Between X and Y 69
  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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