Memory is not simply the ability to recall something.

Memory is not simply the ability to recall something.

If somebody asked you to describe what memory is, you would probably give some sort of explanation along the lines that it is the ability to recall events. However, memory is so much more than that.

Recall of events is certainly one part of memory, known as autobiographical memory, but the following are also instances of memory:

General knowledge: if you know that an old fashioned British phone box and postbox are red, you must have that stored somewhere as a memory.

Language: If you can speak any sort of language you must have memorised what the words mean, along with the grammar needed to speak effectively to other people.

Driving: If you can drive, you must be remembering how to do so. This is a type of memory called procedural memory.

Telling a well known fairy story: You must remember the salient points of a story to be able to retell it.


Whenever a past experience influences our present thoughts or behaviour, that must be an effect of memory.


Find out more about how the mind plays tricks on you and how your memory works by reading my books, Bias Beware and Memory Matters.