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How Does Implicit Memory Relate to Classical Conditioning Theories?

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How does implicit memory relate to classical conditioning theories?

        Our memory is one of the key parts which actually makes life more meaningful. In this article, amongst components of memory concept, we are interested in implicit memory and its relation with classical conditioning theories. We will try to understand how this conditioning concept occurs and through which process. By doing that, obviously, implicit memory will construct most of its structure. In order, I will explain both of these concepts and then will relate them to each other.

        Classical conditioning theories clearly say that, with an unconditioned stimulus (UCS) and response (UCR), we can provide a conditioned organism by conditioned stimulus (CS) and response (CR). That is to say, if we are to condition a cat by creating a voice and at the same time giving the cat a head massage (UCS), cat will react to that by bending its head down (UCR). After repeating this action several times, cat will be conditioned to voice (CS) and will react by bending its head (CR) even though the head massage is not happening. This process is called classical conditioning.

        Implicit memory is the way we remember doing things through our experiences but being unaware of that we actually remember them. By using cliché examples of swimming, riding a bike, driving a car or speaking your native language should be enough to explain this concept. Overall, with implicit memory, we can do such things that we cannot explicitly explain to other people[1].

        When it comes to relate these two concepts, we can refer to the organization of implicit memory[2]. There are four concepts that relate to implicit memory; procedural, priming, classical conditioning and non-associative learning. Amongst them, we can explain classical conditioning as the process that the things we or other organisms do by being unaware (after this learning process is done). Putting it in this way, by being trained through an unconditioned stimulus, we experience unconditioned responses, and after some time it becomes the conditioned response. From that time on, we (other organisms) are not aware of the fact that we respond to conditioned stimulus by giving a conditioned response. Because our brain systems start to operate which operated when the original conditioning process is done. A familiar example might be that when a father pushes his child to the pool when the child is standing nearby the pool, after some trials, child may start to jump by himself/herself without the pushing effect but the appearance of the father behind him/her. When you ask the child how he finds that courage to jump and ask to explain, he may not be able to fully describe all the process. This exact moment is where implicit memory works.

        Altogether, we may briefly conclude that after the conditioning is done, implicit memory kicks in and does the learnt process beforehand. Organism that was exposed to that learning is unaware of the thing it has done or cannot explain the process completely, which also shows the effect of implicit memory.


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