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The Memory Illusion: Remembering, Forgetting, and the Science of False Memory
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The Memory Illusion: Remembering, Forgetting, and the Science of False Memory

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  1,199 ratings  ·  164 reviews
Think you have a good memory? Think again.

Memories are our most cherished possessions. We rely on them every day of our lives. They make us who we are. And yet the truth is they are far from being the accurate record of the past we like to think they are. True, we can all admit to having suffered occasional memory lapses, such as entering a room and immediately forgetting
Kindle Edition, 304 pages
Published June 16th 2016 by Cornerstone Digital (first published June 2016)
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Trisha This book is very well written, a 15 year old would definitely be able to understand this book.

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Feb 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I am conflicted about this book. It deserves 5 stars because of its excellent investigation into how memory works and the book's ability to convey the finer points to a large audience. Writing such an accessible book on an important topic, such as faulty memory, will help make the much needed shift from understanding memory as something that is a bit faulty but is, in general, fairly reliable to understanding memory as a retrospective analysis of an old memory that does not reflect the actual ev ...more
Dec 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A lovely book. Filled with scientific citations, anecdotes and provoking information. It was an easy read, than again, it was also a very insightful book.
Though I was hoping for a more specific content, this book didn't disappoint as far as I'm concerned. It touched subjects such as cognitive biases, working memory, long term memory, biology, psychology, criminology, identity and mnemonics. It offered scientific facts and also ethical applications, and some applications.

I would strongly sugges
Dec 23, 2016 rated it liked it
I finished the book without developing any real affection for it.
On the upside, there were plenty of examples and case studies which (unusually for a book of this type) were not rooted entirely in studies and statistics from the USA.
On the downside, I felt that interesting points were raised, and then case studies and discussions were engaged to add to the point that more or less failed to add any real value.
Did it enhance my understanding of memory? A bit. But I think my actual take-away learn
Richard Newton
Generally a good and accessible read covering a wide range of science related to memory. Good if you like your scientists to quote plenty of research and remain accessible. Debunks all sorts of myths about memories - including things like repressed memories. The topic is an important one, and one that more of us could do with understanding.

Pleasantly well written, although the best parts are the beginning and the end. I found some of the chapters in the middle a little dull.

The basic message i
Adam Morva
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing

So, prior to starting this book I was fairly well read and educated in the topic, but I have to say I found this book quite useful and impressive nonetheless.

It is accessible to the layman with no prior knowledge in the topic, but as I said, even advanced students will find their fill of fun.

Julia Shaw talks about everything in just the right detail, with just the right amount of evidence to support her points, in just the right language.

Don't be mislead by the title: Yes, the emphasis is on
Carrie Poppy
Dec 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Passenger B.
I've never read so many false statements in a row, presented in a conceited, fanatical way at that. Science? I think not.
The book is all over the place which made it hard to understand what the point of some of the chapters or individual examples and stories were.

Author was adamant that no one can remember early childhood memories or have memories from when they were a baby, then later basically negated that statement without seemingly even being aware of it. The more she wrote the more often
Stephen Yu
Dec 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I could tell that the Julia Shaw made an effort to avoid too many medical jargon. Trying her best to make sure that the content of the book wasn't too dry, at times having intriguing anecdotes.

Filled with many references to countless experiments and research conducted by various other doctors/professors, Julia Shaw gives insightful explanations to certain memory illusions of human beings such as

- Why we tend to be overconfident with our capabilities of memory retention?

- How can other people's
Adam Osth
Apr 10, 2018 rated it liked it
I'm biased because I study memory for a living. With that being said, I was surprised at how much I learned while reading this book, especially during the neuroscience chapter, which talked about some really interesting recent developments in optogenetics.

On the other hand, the book didn't seem to have much of a coherent thesis. It talked about various ways that people have false memories but didn't really talk about theories that actually explain these phenomena. Speaking as a cognitive scienti
Bernie Gourley
Jun 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those interested in false memories and the implanting thereof.
Julia Shaw is a psychologist who conducted research into whether (and how) false memories could be “planted” in a person’s mind – and not just any memories, but memories of having committed a crime that one actually didn’t. That research is fascinating, and I think it’s tremendously valuable given the disparity between how accurate people believe their memories are and how fallible they are in practice. This disparity has played a major role in many a miscarriage of justice with eye-witnesses hi ...more
Elsa K
Feb 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was utterly fascinating. It was also a very engaging read. I was impressed how it was so gripping, even though it was mostly explaining science and psychological studies. I would recommend it to anyone.

I found parts of it difficult to swallow- I want to hold onto my memories as fact! Also how this relates to criminology is difficult to think about. But I still think it was good to think through and to be aware of. The author's purpose seems to be to educate the public on this and to ge
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found "The Memory Illusion" to be an enjoyable as well as a humbling read. It was a sobering revelation coming to terms with the fact that our memories are undeniably flawed and subject to being "hacked". What I enjoyed most about the book is that it's all based on science and research with a full bibliography. Dr. Shaw explains in full--and entertainingly I might add--detail what false memories are and how they impact our lives and society.

After finishing this book I wanted to buy a copy for
Jan 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Our collections of memories make us who we are. They are the basis for self-identity, the sum of all of our life experiences. It is normal to occasionally forget someone’s name or why you went into the kitchen, but it is also just as normal to re-write entire memories, minutes or years after the original occurrence. Dr. Julia Shaw, memory expert and forensic psychologist, actually creates false memories in healthy unsuspecting college students. Using current research, she shows just how often ou ...more
Dec 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It’s a little scary to think of how much of our past is probably fictional — especially since our sense of self very much depends on our memories. It’s equally scary to think about what or who we’d be without them. This book draws together many different lines of memory research, including studies of false memories, cognitive biases, flashbulb memories. It’s amazing how prone to errors, both small and large, our memories are. And it’s sobering to consider the implications for eyewitness testimon ...more
Feb 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting and fascinating, very informative and opinion changing.

However, for me, one point was being discarded too much, and that is how childhood memories (which we might not remember actively neither be able to recover, I agree on that point) could still influence our adult life (cue: attachment theory).
Apart from that, I enjoyed that the writer clearly expressed her opinion based on her research, while still also explaining theories that exist but to which she does not adhere. Refreshing
Simone Beg
Jan 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I kind of expected the reviews for this to be a mixed bag with a topic that is so emotional to many people. After all most people strongly believe their memories to be facts and that their memories are what makes up a large chunk of their personalities. To put the accuracy of memories in general into question is bound to stir up some heated emotions.

Personally I fall somewhere in the middle. Could the author convince me in every single aspect of her reasoning? Nope. But do I feel I learned a lot
Mark Seemann
A tour of what we (think we) know about memory, from experimental psychology over (popular) descriptions of brain anatomy. I had to pay attention in order to be able to follow the biological descriptions, but it's also not my forte.

If you ever thought that memory is reliable, you probably don't think so after having read this.

I'd already heard enough interviews with Julia Shaw to know what to expect, so new revelations were rare for me. I could imagine that if you don't know what to expect, you'
Chouba Nabil
Dec 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Book : the memory illusion

Book present nice update on the latest research brain memory research,

If our memory is gone who we are ?

Episodic memory is like Facebook walls

Short memory ( working memory) : only for 30s : can store 7±2 number

Long term memory ( for longer than 30 sec )

3.5 years we start having memories (between 2-5) we don’t know what is important that should be remember ( children amnesia )

Brain size:
2-4 week 36%
1 years 72%
2 years 83%
9 years 95%
13 years 100% ( when we start fully re
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Amazing.... and terrifying! Julia Shaw successfully destroys our confidence in our memories. There is so much poignant and practical information in here, especially for anyone in sociology or criminology fields, or just anyone who interacts with humans. If you think you have a good memory, or that people who make up stories must be lying, or you think that eye-witness accounts are the most reliable form of evidence, this book will change your perspective. Fortunately I never had a great memory a ...more
Aug 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
A drastic job change exposed memory issues I wanted to understand better. I wanted to read about actual research on memory - what it is & how it works, rather than a how-to type book at this point. Here I found that. Although Dr. Shaw’s primary interest is false memory, her book first lays down several foundational chapters on memory in order to explain the science behind false memory. Having just finished the book, I now plan to reread some of those foundational chapters. The final chapter prov ...more
Feb 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Very engaging. This book is full of everyday examples that make it easy to conceptualise difficult abstract ideas and it's packed with scholarly references so it could be a good starting point for someone interested in further reading on the subject.
Dec 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting. Funnily enough I don't remember much but happy to go through it again
Ari Carr
Nov 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was fantastic! I finished it last night and am still thinking about it now. The psychology nerd/bad memory-haver in me loved it!
Anna Morgenstern
Jul 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Well, if you're looking for an insightful mindfuck that will make you question every memory you've ever had- there you go!
On a more serious tone, I found this one very thought-provoking, enlightening, fascinating, and at the same time very reader-friendly, I didn't feel like anything was "too science-y" or went over my head.
It will definitely leave you with a lot of food for thought and will change your perspective regarding several topics.
Jul 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
So interesting and left me questioning what was real in my life!!
Apr 10, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some parts were interesting, but I didn't like the Audible narrator. I found her reading flat. The contents didn't completely make up for it.
Dovilė Stonė
Mar 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"What we do argue is that suggestive and leading interview techniques can lead to the false recall of terrible things. We also argue that pursuing child sexual abuse allegations, especially when absurd event details are involved and no corroborating evidence can be found, needs to be approached with extreme caution. Caution because false memories of traumatic events clearly exist, because they seem incredibly real, and because our reaction to such allegations is often led by visceral responses r
Nov 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book to understand memory and how impacts your world. I am now comfortable in accepting situations are not as I initial assumed them to be. I discovered how important memory is to our identity. We place a lot of value on something so fragile. I also appreciate that Julia Shaw could make me accept this new reality without worry.

How many conflicts in my life have included a discrepancy between my memory and the memory of others? Since reading this book I now see that my memories a
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic overview of the concept of memory, tying in cutting edge empirical data with relevant anecdotes, and what's more impactful, is the effect on the judicial system. This book was a delightful and very well-organized read that can be understood and enjoyed by most adults. This is an important note, as I believe that major positive growth in society could occur through the widespread dissemination of these concepts and ideas.

[Caveat: this book was completed as an audiobook, where the narrat
Janet Rosenblatt
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing

Just finished the book
Interesting topic people never think about.
The information is somewhat frightening and strongly suggests that no one should ever be alone without someone who can document their activities. This is so because if you are ever accused of a crime you cannot rely on a fair and just outcome which could be based on verbal items entered as evidence.
Also as a scientist familiar, I have some questions about the citations regarding neural timing that were mentioned in this b
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Julia Shaw is an honorary research associate at the University College London. Born in Germany and raised in Canada, she has a MS in psychology and law and a PhD in psychology from the University of British Columbia. She is a regular contributor to Scientific American.

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“So, in general how good are we at predicting how long things will take? In a review of research on prospective memory published in 2010,15 Roger Buehler from Wilfrid Laurier University and his colleagues in Canada looked at research asking individuals to estimate how long particular activities would take them. They found that people were generally optimistic in their estimates, tending to discount past failures to complete things on time, and generally underestimating how long tasks actually took to complete. In other words, we seem to believe that our future selves are going to be superheroes at doing things quickly – new you excels at doing things quickly, even if old you was slow. New you is efficient, old you was lazy.” 1 likes
“Our past is a fictional representation, and the only thing we can be even somewhat sure of is what is happening now. It encourages us to live in the moment and not to place too much importance on our past. It forces us to accept that the best time of our lives, and our memory, is right now. And” 0 likes
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