Difference between Episodic and Semantic Memory

Main Difference

The main difference between these two kind of memories namely episodic memory and semantic memory is that episodic memory is wholly associated with the recalling of personal facts while semantic memory refers to those facts that are not personal at all. It is about the outside world.


Comparison Chart

Basis of Distinction Episodic Memory Semantic Memory
Definition The portion of memory deals in the recalling of specific events and experiences of personal level only. The portion of memory deals in recalling of those facts, events, and experiences that relate to the external world.
Source Sensation Comprehension
Units Events and episodes Facts, ideas, and concepts
Organization Temporal Conceptual
Reference Self Universe
Veridicality Personal belief Social agreement
Registration Experiential Symbolic

Episodic Memory

Episodic memory is a type of memory wholly associated with the autobiographical events that can be explicitly stated. Episodic memory is actually the collection of past events and experiences that happened at a particular time and place. This can be better understood by the example when a person remembers an event that happened at a party. This recalling of event enforces the individual to travel back in past moment to remember the event that happened at that particular time and place. Establishing an episodic memory involves multiple steps and each of steps then involves a separate system of the brain. Naturally a person able to link any particular detail with an episodic memory like how they felt, judge, time, place and other particulars. It is entirely different from semantic memory in a sense it is wholly associated with the personal memory of person about his personal events and memories only. The main components involve in the process of episodic memory are the recollection of the specific event. Recollection is basically the process that recalls the information related to a particular experience or event that has already occurred. It worth to point out here that it is the unique memory of a person about a specific event and will be different with from other persons on the same events and experiences.


Semantic Memory

Semantic memory itself is derived from the episodic memory and deals with vast memory issues as compared to the episodic memory. As compared to episodic memory that is more generalize towards too many personal experiences, semantic memory is about the structured record of concepts, information, knowledge, and meanings about those external world matters that a person has acquired. It refers to that factual knowledge and matters that a person shares with others and are not wholly dependent on the personal experiences. Scientists called it the long-term portion of our memory because sometimes we take the time to recall it as these is not associated with our personal experiences and events only. You can call about what happened on you birthday party six years ago, but it will be difficult for you to recall all syllabus while attempting annual examination. We can learn new ideas by implementing our knowledge learned already. The encoding process involved in both semantic and episodic memory is similar, but the end result is different because of applying different recalling techniques. In a nutshell, if a person holds semantic memory information, he has learned it, either directly or indirectly, in the past but he doesn’t know about the mnemonic information about how he get this and what was the episode of such learning.

Key Differences

  • The effect of episodic memory is greater than semantic memory.
  • The internal capability in case of episodic memory is limited as compared to semantic memory that is very rich.
  • Semantic memory has limited succinct knowledge while episodic memory has comprehensive knowledge, but that is too not accessible.
  • In semantic memory, learning process involves multiple exposures while episodic memory deals with quick learning process with exposure.
  • Episodic includes automatic awareness and the mental re-experience of a previous moment in the past. On the other hand, semantic memory has no autonoesis and no mental time travel.
  • Episodic memory has a temporal co-occurrence of two words like A and B while semantic memory entails a significant relation between two words, the A and B association.
  • Episodic memory is all about us while the semantic memory is just about the facts.
  • Semantic memory involves knowing while episodic memory involves remembering.
  • Semantic memory develops first episodic memory while episodic memory develops after semantic memory.
  • Episodic memory is oriented to the past while the semantic memory is oriented to the past.
  • Semantic memory mainly activates the cortexes of frontal and temporal nature, while episodic memory activity is concentrated in the hippocampus at least initially.
  • In semantic memory, information is brought back from the past while episodic memory is the absence of recovery of information about prior.
  • Episodic memory is typically assessed by word completion, constrained associations and free association tasks. Semantic memory is typically assessed by a test of recall, recognition and cued recall.
  • In episodic memory, tests are incidental as subjects perform an orienting or over the task and are not informed about a subsequent memory test. In semantic memory, the test is intentional as subjects are instructed to attend carefully to the material being presented for a subsequent test of their memory for it.
  • Episodic memory is a direct form of memory while the semantic memory is an indirect form of memory.
  • Learning can be fast in case of semantic memory while learning is usually slow and incremental but sometimes rapid in the case of episodic memory.
  • Episodic memory is a type of non-verbal memory while the semantic memory is a type of verbal memory.

Video Explanation