Semantic Memory: Definition, Examples, What It Affects, Location And More.

The semantic memory is how we can understand the meanings of different things, such as words and learn facts about the world, it is the second part of the memory declaratively with episodic memory, essentially thanks to semantic memory, we can remember where we live without remembering how or when we did it.

What is semantic memory?

It refers to a part of long-term memory that processes ideas and concepts that are not drawn from personal experience. Semantic memory includes things that are common knowledge, such as the names of colors, the sounds of letters, the capital letters of countries, and other facts that are acquired during life.

The concept is fairly new, it was introduced in 1972 as a result of the collaboration between Endel Tulving of the University of Toronto and Wayne Donaldson of the University of New Brunswick on the impact of organization on human memory.

Before Tulving, human memory had not undergone many extensive studies or investigations, since then several research projects have investigated the differences between semantic and episodic memory. Some of the most notable experiments related to semantic memory were performed by JF Kihlstrom in the 1980s to test hypnosis on semantic and episodic memory.

Imagine that you are sitting in your college psychology class and the professor asks the class to define ‘psychology’. You raise your hand and tell him that psychology is the scientific study of the human mind and behavior, your teacher tells you that you are correct, how did you know the answer? Maybe you would read it in a book or study it online, the information is preserved, waiting for the moment when it could be useful. The definition of “psychology” is an example of the type of information stored in semantic memory.

Semantic memory contains all the general knowledge about our world that we have accumulated throughout our lives, general knowledge such as facts, ideas, meanings and concepts related to our world are stored in semantic memory, it is also one of the two types of declarative memory.

The types of things stored in declarative memory can be consciously remembered, such as facts and language , memories that are usually unconsciously remembered, such as motor skills for riding a bicycle, are stored in procedural memory.

Examples of semantic memory

  • The meaning of the letters.
  • Know what a car is.
  • How letters together can make a word.
  • The dates of when World War II began and ended.
  • Recognizing names of colors.
  • Know what a broom is used for.
  • Know what a blender is used for.
  • Know that Washington DC is the capital of the USA.
  • Know the use of a stapler.
  • Know how to use a whisk.

What affects semantic memory

One of the things all of these examples have in common is that you don’t have to experience them to learn and remember them, semantic memory doesn’t depend on personal experience or even a specific event. For example, we know that London is a city in the UK even though many of us have never been there.

This does not mean that everyone’s semantic memory is the same; in fact, our individual communities and our environment have a great impact on our semantic memory, it could be said that it depends on the culture of the owner. For example, a soccer game in the United States refers to a specific sport, however, in other countries, such as Australia and Ireland, a soccer game may refer to several different sports that involve kicking a ball. The culture in which we are surrounded by growing up will affect the connections we make in semantic memory.

Semantic memory location

There are arguments among researchers regarding the location of this type of memory, certain sections of researchers believe that it is stored in the same regions as episodic memory, mainly the hippocampus and the medial temporal lobe, memories are encoded in the hippocampus before that they are stored in the medial temporal lobe.

However, recent research suggests that semantic memory encoding has little to do with the hippocampus, this was demonstrated by experiments with amnesiacs who had damage to their hippocampus that is part of the hippocampus formation. This formation also includes the perirrinal and entorhinal cortices which are known as the parahippocampal cortices.

The experiment showed that patients who had damage to the hippocampus but whose parahippocampal cortices were not affected had the ability to form semantic memories despite a complete inability to do so with episodic memories.

A 2006 study claims that semantic memories are formed in the anterior temporal lobe after experiments were performed on 12 subjects who had no memory problems in Manchester, England.

Specific disability of semantic memory

An example of a disease caused by a specific impairment of a semantic category is Alzheimer’s . This disease causes sufferers to make mistakes when it comes to naming and describing things.

Another disease associated with this form of deterioration is semantic dementia , those who suffer from this completely lose all the previous knowledge they had of people and objects despite being able to speak fluently, semantic dementia comes from the loss of tissue cerebral in the temporal lobe.

Semantic memory disorders

To understand the disorders , one must first understand how these disorders affect memory, as they are divided into two categories, the specific deficiencies of the semantic category and the specific alterations of the modality, understanding these types of deficiencies will give an idea of ​​how they work semantic memory disorders.

Specific shortcomings of the semantic category

They can cause generalized and partial damage or localized damage, they can be divided into four categories: Perceptual and functional characteristics, topographic organization, informativeness and intercorrelations are areas of decreased functioning in semantic memory disorders.

The Alzheimer ‘s disease is a disorder of semantic memory errors to describing and naming objects, but not necessarily specifically by category.

Semantic dementia is another disorder associated with semantic memory, as it is a language disorder characterized by impaired understanding and recognition of words, deficiencies include difficulty generating familiar words, difficulty naming objects, and difficulties with speech. visual recognition.

Research suggests that the temporal lobe could be responsible for category-specific alterations of semantic memory disorders, in addition to category-specific deficiencies, modality-specific disorders are included in semantic memory disorders.

Specific impediments of the modality

There are two main forms of semantic memory disorders, these are modality-specific and semantic-specific impairments. A modality can also be defined as part of a stimulus, such as taste and temperature.

Modality impairments can be divided into categories such as visual versus verbal depending on the type of information. For example, if we suffer damage to visual semantics, our knowledge of living creatures would deteriorate, damage to functional semantics means we would have problems with memories of inanimate objects.

Refractory semantic access and semantic storage disorders

Semantic memory disorders are divided into two groups: refractory access semantic disorders are contrasted with semantic storage disorders according to four factors, temporal factors, response consistency, frequency and semantic relationship are the four factors used to differentiate between semantic refractory access and semantic storage disorders.

A key characteristic of semantic refractory access disorders is temporal distortion, decreases in response time to certain stimuli are observed when compared to natural response times, consistency of response is the next factor.

In access disorders, inconsistencies are observed when understanding and responding to stimuli that have been presented many times, temporal factors affect the consistency of the response.

In storage disorders, you do not see an inconsistent response to specific elements as you do in refractory access disorders, stimulus frequency determines performance at all stages of cognition, extreme word frequency effects are common in semantic storage disorders, while in semantic refractory access disorders the effects of speech frequency are minimal.

Comparison of ‘close’ and ‘distant’ groups tests the semantic relationship, ‘close’ groupings have related words because they come from the same category, for example a list of clothing types would be a ‘close’ grouping.

The “distant” groupings contain words with wide categorical differences, unrelated words would fall into this group. The comparison of close and distant groups shows that in access disorders the semantic relationship had a negative effect, this is not observed in semantic storage disorders. Category- and modality-specific impairments are important components in semantic memory storage and access disorders.

Georgia Tarrant
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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.