The Memory Illusion

Remembering, Forgetting and the Science of False Memory

Julia Shaw

304 pages April 2017 Original publisher: Random HouseNon Fiction

Think you have a good memory? Think again.

We rely on our memories 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. In The Memory Illusion, forensic psychologist and memory expert Dr. Julia Shaw draws on the latest research to show why our memories so often play tricks on us – and how, if we understand their fallibility, we can actually improve their accuracy. The result is an exploration of our minds that both fascinating and unnerving, and that will make you question how much you can ever truly know about yourself.


“[Memory] is … woefully easy to screw up — a point that criminal psychologist Julia Shaw elegantly demonstrates in her new popular book, The Memory Illusion: Remembering, Forgetting and the Science of False Memory. Shaw’s debut book is a spryly paced, fun, sometimes frightening exploration of how we remember — and why everyone remembers things that never truly happened.” –  Ed Cara, Pacific Standard, 23.06.16

“Truly fascinating.” Steve Wright, BBC Radio 2, 20.06.16

“illuminating and instructive.” Richard Scorer, The Tablet, 08.09.16

“she explains her thought-provoking memory research… which explores the science behind false memories, self-deception and how our memory system really works.” Lauren Pelley, Toronto Star, 23.09.16

“For her book, Shaw deserves a big compliment. She has comprehensively portrayed a wide field, and in an exciting, comprehensible way, despite some of the issues being very complicated…  Julia Shaw shows highly understandably why memory can trick us… After reading it is clear that one should not rely on supposedly safe memories – neither in themselves nor in others. ” Gert Scobel, Philosophy Magazine, October / November 2016

“A brilliantly written book that makes the reader think about his or her life in a whole new way.” P.M. Magazine, December 2016

“It is exciting to read this, but her book is about more: learning strategies, hypnosis, digital amnesia, sleep, distortions of thought, and how all this affects  memory. All this is well explained and provided with many examples from everyday life and explained by spectacular processes”. Volker Wildermuth, Germany radio culture, 09.12.16

“From the neurological foundations of memory, to the various types of memory, and unusual phenomena such as flashbacks, Julia Shaw guides the reader amusingly and with a light pen through modern memory research. (…) Whoever is looking for a broad introduction to memory research should reach for this book. ” Manuela Lenzen, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 26.11.16

“… an exciting, funny and instructive book that should be a mandatory read for journalists, police, prosecutors, judges and all others who have to work with their own and others’ memories.” Stefan Weigel, Rheinische Post, 12.10.16

“A great book … Julia Shaw explains in an exciting, comprehensible and often funny way, why our brain can not help but to often forget.” Sven Stylish, ZEIT Wissen, October / November 2016

“A book which deeply disturbingly calls our memory world into question.”Eduard Erne, SRF Kulturplatz, 12.10.16

“A very topical and very controversial topic… Very exciting: Almost a manual for psychotherapy.” Markus Lanz, ZDF, 29.09.16

“Hard to believe and quite scary how malleable our memory is.” WDR “Westart”, 26.09.16