The porous boundaries between explicit and implicit memory: behavioral and neural evidence


Address for correspondence: Ilana T.Z. Dew, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708.


Explicit memory refers to the conscious retrieval of past information or experiences, whereas implicit memory refers to an unintentional or nonconscious form of retrieval. Much of the literature in cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience has focused on differences between explicit and implicit memory, and the traditional view is that they rely on distinct brain systems. However, the potential interplay between implicit and explicit memory is not always clear. This review draws from behavioral and functional neuroimaging evidence to evaluate three areas in which implicit and explicit memory may be interrelated. First, we discuss views of familiarity-based recognition in terms of its relationship with implicit memory. Second, we review the challenges of distinguishing between implicit memory and involuntary aware memory, at both behavioral and neural levels. Finally, we examine evidence indicating that implicit and explicit retrieval of relational information may rely on a common neural mechanism. Taken together, these areas indicate that, under certain circumstances, there may be an important and influential relationship between conscious and nonconscious expressions of memory.