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Difference between memory and knowledge Essay

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Memory is the mental faculty of retaining and recalling past experience. It’s a very complex system and to understand it there have been many theories that attempt to explain it. In order to help me answer this question, I will look at the theorist JM Gardiner, along with other theorists such as Tulving, Mandler and Schacter in order to help me conclude if they are the same thing, inter-related or completely different.

Tulving (1985), distinguished between two quite different recollective experiences: remembering, which is someone’s concrete awareness of oneself (autonoetic consciousness) in the past, which is driven by the prefrontal cortex, allows people to mentally represent past, present, and future experiences in a highly personal and subjective manner.

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And knowing, which is your abstract knowledge (noetic consciousness) of the past, which is the feeling that we know certain information and that the information is objective rather than subjective.

Gardiner and colleagues (Gardiner & Java, 1990, 1993; Gardiner, Richardson-Klavhen, & Ramponi, 1997) developed a test in which participants are given a recognition task for a list of common words viewed earlier and classify each of the recognized items as something they remember (R response) or know (K response), was on the study list. Participants received detailed instructions so that their R responses and K responses reflect retrieval from episodic and semantic memory.

For example, participants are told to make R responses to test items that they can consciously reexperience from the study list (e.g., participants make R responses to test items because in their mind’s eye, they consciously recollect seeing those words on the study list). In contrast, participants are told to make K responses to test items if they (a) are certain those were on the study list but (b) have no specific personal or contextual recollection of the items’ previous presentation. The use of this technique has shown that some independent variables (e.g., dividing attention at study) affect the frequency of R, but not K, responses, whereas other variables have the exact opposite influence.

Memory of a personal life event may be categorized as a K response, which is relatively impersonal and objective. A memory qualifies as a K response if people know a great deal about the details of a previous event but do not mentally reexperience the exact perceptual, contextual, and emotional details of the original event.

Gardiner’s remember-know distinction maps are similar to that of Mandler’s (1980) distinction between recognition by retrieval and recognition by familiarity. Recognition by retrieval involves remembering an event as an event, including the personal, time and place context in which the event occurred; in contrast, recognition by familiarity involves a feeling that some event occurred in the past, in the absence of conscious recollection of that event. For Gardiner, Remember judgments reflect recognition by retrieval, while Know judgments reflect recognition by familiarity.

An alternative framework is provided by Schacter’s (1987) distinction between explicit and implicit memory. The hippocampus is important in the formation of explicit memories. They involve the conscious recollection of an experience from the past. Due to the hippocampus not fully developing until about the age of 3, this explains why we can’t remember events prior to this, a condition known as infantile amnesia. The cerebellum seems important in the formation of implicit memories which are memory-based changes in behaviour that occur independent of, and in the classic case in the absence of, conscious recollection.

Contexual information can be defined as information associated with memory which enables that memory to be distinguished from all others. Hewitt (1973) proposed a distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic context. A change in intinsic arises when some aspect of the target changes (ie the colour of their hair), whereas a change in extrinsic is the change in information accompanying the target (ie meeting someone in somewhere you wouldn’t expect them to be). In Gardiner’s case, remembering reflects explicit memory, while knowing reflects implicit memory.

There are at least three varieties of recollective experience: firstly remembering which involves the conscious recollection of some past event, as an explicit expression of episodic memory; knowing which is the abstract knowledge of that event, as an item in semantic memory; and feeling is the intuition that an event occurred in the past, as an implicit expression of episodic memory. So for example, semantic memory enables a man to know what the term birthday refers to and that he celebrated his last birthday by having dinner at a particular restaurant with his wife, whereas episodic memory allows that same man to reexperience from a personal and subjective point of view the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings that accompanied that dinner.

Metamemory is our ability to know whether or not our memories contain a particular piece of information. An example might be failing to recall the capital of France (Paris) but knowing that you would recognise it if you saw it – this is an ability known as a feeling of knowing. These experiences are familiar to anyone who has ever taken a multiple-choice test. Sometimes, we choose a response because we remember the circumstances under which we learnt it. Or on other occasions, we choose a response because we just know the answer, it’s part of our knowledge about the world, and we don’t remember the circumstances under which we learned the answer.

Tulving and Gardiner believe that remember and know judgments are based on retrieval from different memory systems: episodic and semantic memory, perhaps, or explicit and implicit memory. However, it could also be that “remember” and “know” are based on retrieval from a single memory system, and that the categories of remember, know, and so forth are substitutes for different levels of confidence associated with the recognition judgments. Both Tulving (1985) and Gardiner (1988) have rejected this interpretation, even though Tulving actually gathered evidence favouring it. Tulving’s subjects studied 36 words, and then made Yes/No recognition judgments, confidence ratings (on a 3 point scale), and Remember/Know ratings. The average confidence rating associated with Remember judgments was 2.74, while that of Know judgments was 2.08.

However, Gardiner & Java (1990) argued that confidence ratings affect Remember/Know judgments. People may base their confidence ratings on their recollective experience, so that the two are not independent. In their 2nd experiment, the subjects studied 60 items, 30 words and 30 non words, and then made Yes/No recognition judgments followed by Remember/Know ratings. The result was a double dissociation: more words received remember than know judgments, while the reverse was true for nonwords.

In the 3rd experiment which was identical to the 2nd, except the people being tested classified recognized items into “Sure” and “Unsure” categories. This time there was no dissociation. Rajaram (1993) performed a similar pair of experiments, with similar results, and came to same conclusion. Substituting Sure/Unsure ratings for Remember/Know judgments got rid of the dissociations observed with Remember/Know, so both Gardiner and Java (1990) and Rajaram (1993) conclude that Remember/Know is not merely a substitute for confidence.

Although the Remember/Know distinction is commonly interpreted in terms of different memory systems, it is suspected instead that these different memories reflect retrieval of different information from a single common store. Know judgments require retrieval only of information from a list, while remember judgments seem to require retrieval of information about spatiotemporal context, and you need to experience the event yourself.

Knowing and remembering something are very similar, the definition of to know is to have fixed in the mind, recognize and have experience of, and the definition of remember is to retain in memory, to think of again. In order to know something it can be quite impersonal, general information about things such as the is the prime minister, this is the semantic memory, however in order to remember something you need to know specific details about the event such as going on holiday, you remember the sights and sounds and the feelings you experienced, this is the episodic memory. In order to remember you need to be able to retrieve information, remember an event as an event, whereas to know you need to just be familiar with it, have a feeling that some event may have occurred before.

So to say there is a difference between knowing and remembering something is hard, there are clear cut differences as explained, however without one we couldn’t have the other, they are inter-related. It is all the same memory system in which we use to know or to remember something. It is the different processes and different levels of experience or relation to you that makes them different.


•Gardiner, J.M., & Java, R.I. (1990). Recollective experience in word and nonword recognition. Memory & Cognition, 18, 23-30.

•Memory and amnesia, 2nd edition, Alan J Parker, page 17-18,33, 36,116•Memory observed, remembering in natural contexts, 2nd edition, Ulric Neisser, Ira E. Hayman, jr. Page 109•Psychology powerpoint – Memory II – Lecture 3: Theories of Short and Long Term Memory, 2005, University of Glamorgan.

•Rybash, John M.; Monaghan, Brynn E, Episodic and semantic contributions to older adults’ autobiographical recall, The Journal of General Psychology. 126 no1 (Jan. ’99) p. 85-96.

•Schacter, D.L. (1987). Implicit memory: History and current status. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition, 501-518.

•Tulving, E. (1972). Episodic and semantic memory. In E. Tulving & W. Donaldson (Eds.), Organization of memory (pp. 381-403). New York: Academic Press.

•Tulving, E. (1985). Memory and consciousness. Canadian Psychology, 1-12.

•Your Memory A user’s guide, Alan Baddeley, Page 13, 75-76,81,94-95,

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