I am asking participants some questions on a form. I have to know which kind of memory they are using when answering these questions. I am having difficulty deciding this. Is there any special technique to determine this?

For example, consider these questions :

  1. Is your name Majid? Is the memory used semantic or episodic? I know that most probably everyone would say semantic because there is no event being recalled, but I am not sure if remembering own's name is possible without recalling an event.

  2. Is your hair black? This one is only available while thinking of a memory, but like the last one it could be semantic too.

  3. Do you know how to ride a bike? This one could be semantic or episodic because I might recall an event of riding a bike and then answer. Or it could even be procedural memory as I might simulate riding a bike and then say, "Yes".

I am trying to figure out how do I assign each question one or more of the memory types?

I am using the memory types introduced by Squire in 2004. The picture is from Fundamentals of Cognitive Neuroscience by Bernard Baars. Fundamentals of Cognitive Neuroscience by Bernard Baars


1 Answer 1


It depends whether the answers are well known facts. If I know well my name, the color of my hair and whether I can ride a bike then semantic memory is used to answer these questions. If I have a doubt whether I can ride a bike, then I may use other types of memory like episodic or even procedural to come up with an answer.

Also, I may use episodic memory to answer a specific question today, but if I have to answer the same question tomorrow I will probably use semantic memory because it has become a general fact that is stored in semantic memory.

Semantic memory reflects our knowledge of the world around us, hence the term 'general knowledge' is often used. It holds generic information that is more than likely acquired across various contexts and is used across different situations.

  • $\begingroup$ so in your experiment how do you know if the participant is using semantic or episodic memory while answering the question about his/her name ?! $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 10:57

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