The brain takes in and processes a plethora of thoughts and experiences every day, some of which only get stored for a few seconds or minutes, others assimilated for days, while some get etched in the brain for years or even entire lifetime. It is one’s capacity to recall these thoughts that is the basis for memory.
Image source: unforgettable.org
Memory is, therefore, either short- or long-term. Remembering, for example, who called you up before you went to bed, or what you ate this morning before work, constitutes short-term memory. Experts sometimes call it active or primary memory. In general, short-term memories remain for a span of 30 seconds to several days.
Most short-term types will be eventually forgotten to make way for new ones unless one consciously takes the effort to recall them. When this is done, such memories get stored in the brain’s frontal lobe, the area that allows for long-term memories.
Long-term memory, therefore, refers to facts, experiences, and evens that happened weeks, months, or years back. The conscious decision or need to remember is often the reason for these memories, like recalling one’s Social Security number or ATM password, or when one wants to retain what they have studied for a test.
Image source: kisspng.com
However, sometimes what one may not intend to remember still gets stored as long-term memory. This is because an event has a very strong link to one’s sensory experience or a particular emotion, like the passing of a loved one or a first visit to another country.