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Publisher's Summary

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 records 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 why or suddenly being unable to recall the name of someone we've met dozens of times. But what if we have the potential for more profound errors of memory, even verging on outright fabrication and self-deception?

In The Memory Illusion, forensic psychologist and memory expert Dr Julia Shaw uses the latest research to show the astonishing variety of ways in which our brains can indeed be led astray. She shows why we can sometimes misappropriate other people's memories, subsequently believing them to be our own. She explains how police officers can imprison an innocent man for life on the basis of 300 denials and just one confession. She demonstrates the way radically false memories can be deliberately implanted, leading people to believe that they brutally murdered a loved one or were abducted by aliens. And she reveals how, in spite of all this, we can improve our memory through simple awareness of its fallibility.

Fascinating and unnerving in equal measure, The Memory Illusion offers a unique insight into the human brain, challenging you to question how much you can ever truly know about yourself.

Dr Julia Shaw is a psychology lecturer and memory researcher at the University of Bedfordshire and is one of only a handful of experts in the world who actively conduct research on complex memory errors related to emotional personal events - so-called 'false memories'. Dr Shaw has published research articles in various international academic journals, written textbook chapters, and presented at many international conferences. She is also heavily involved in teaching classes on memory at the undergraduate and graduate levels, for which she has won two teaching excellence awards.

Besides her teaching and research, she has delivered general business and police-training workshops, has given guest lectures at universities around the world, has evaluated offender diversion programs and works with the UK police to advise on historical sexual and physical abuse cases. She has also been featured as an expert on TV and radio and in UK and international newspapers.

©2016 Julia Shaw (P)2016 Audible, Ltd

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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All over the place but interesting

The Memory Illusion is a fascinating piece on neurology, psychology and, basically, how humans think and remember. Dr. Shaw is a luminary and fully grasps her subject. Unfortunately, what this book had in intriguing science it lacked in structure. All chapters (with the exception, perhaps, of the fourth one, which relates to the biology of memory) all feel the same; I couldn't tell you what each one was about.

Siri Steimo offers a relatively robotic performance (she occasionally sounds like a computer-generated narrator). However, she does provide some interesting nuances and intonations at times.

44 of 45 people found this review helpful

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thought provoking

it's kind of strange, but knowing so much more about how people can misremember and develop faulty memories (including myself of course) gives me a certain sense of freedom. I have the freedom to react in multiple ways when I interact with someone that may be wrong or lying, and to question myself and seek independent evidence. it's great

26 of 28 people found this review helpful

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Don't take your own memories at face value

Would you consider the audio edition of The Memory Illusion to be better than the print version?

I did not read this book, I only listened to it, twice in fact. I enjoyed it fully both times. Dr. Julia Shaw's scientific research does prove that you can't trust your own memories. Which makes some sides completed one sided during criminal investigations...

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Memory Illusion?

Everything with self examples.

Have you listened to any of Siri Steinmo’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have not.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Yes, I was moved by the fact that you can't blindly trust your own memories, or trust those that tell you that they know your memories, or what happened to you during a certain time or moment in life. Even their memories of that situation can be completely skewed which will in turn skew yours. Just like it most lines of business, you should document everything with proof.

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

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Mediocre book made terrible by a poor narrator

Memory is a fascinating topic, and given the author's credentials, this book seemed worth a listen. I'm going to stop where I left off, about five hours in.

I suspect that this book was self-published to begin with. There's a Kindle edition, which was released in June, apparently at the same time as this Audible edition. It won't be published as a physical book until next year.

The text per se needed the benefit of a good editor. And to this point, about two-thirds of the way through, I find the author's conclusions to be poorly supported -- broad generalizations about impossibilities, without sufficient evidence. I am not referring to debunking claimed memories of being in utero or of being born, but to more common memories from older childhood. For example, the physiology of the developing brain may make it rare for an adult to be able to recall day-to-day information from her grade school years, such as being able to identify elementary school classmates in a photo (this is, according to the author, useless information which is shed along the way to streamline the brain's function), but surely it isn't impossible. I can do it well past middle age. Those particular neurons are not universally shed, Dr. Shaw, however dogmatically you wish to present your theories. I'd suggest consistently using qualifiers, such as "often" or "rarely" or "few" or "unusual" to make your conclusions sound like the product of a lively and questioning and open mind.

Still, it would be worth finishing this book, if it weren't for an atrocious narrator. Siri Steinmo sounds like a high school student reading aloud in class without having prepared, getting lost in syntax and mispronouncing words. In the first 30 minutes alone, she mispronounced at least half a dozen words, some of them multiple times. When she read, ". . . some of the most fascinating, sometimes almost unbelievable errors, alterations, and misapprehensions our memories can be subject to," she pronounced "subject" with the stress on the second syllable, as if she began to say "subjected," and only then realized that the last syllable wasn't there. Surely that kind of flub would call for a second take in a carefully produced recording. She's apparently unfamiliar with the word "behemoth," but far worse in this context, she doesn't know how to pronounce "synapse."

Note to Audible Studios: For nonfiction, especially, please find narrators who are at minimum familiar with the subject matter. Otherwise, books lose credibility (and narrators only embarrass themselves). But it would be particularly nice for books such as this one, written in the first person, if the narrator's voice might be congruent with the author's voice. In this case, that would mean a more mature, British woman, not a very young American.

If I'd used a credit or paid full price for this book, I'd have returned it. However, I bought it as a daily deal, and it's worth $2.95 to warn others not to waste a credit on this one. If you're keenly interested in reading it, I'd suggest the Kindle edition. Better yet, wait until next August, and check your local library.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

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Very Informative!

An excellent book exploring our own minds and the way memories work. I learned a lot of information that I had not heard before and now have new ways to remember that information based on the studies and practices discussed in this book.

14 of 17 people found this review helpful

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Great material ruined by terrible narrator!

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

Anyone who prefers a nasal, upper conscious millennial reading to them, rather than a thoughtful, in the moment narrator.

What did you like best about this story?

Brilliant insight into how the brain functions regarding memory. Very informative.

What didn’t you like about Siri Steinmo’s performance?

There is no kind way to say this. Steinmo has ruined this book. It's like being read to by a nasal human machine gun, whose sole mission is to selfishly get the words done with, rather than thoughtfully read the material, using words as conveyers of meaning.
She reads "at" the listener, rather than "to" the listener. I truly believe that Steinmo did not read the book at all before the recording session. What a let down.

Any additional comments?

Use narrators who can actually narrate, and not just make rapid noises with their nose.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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I forgot what I wanted to say...

Oh yeah, if you have not previously read about scientific research concerning memory, this is a good overview of the extant research. If you are familiar with the research, this adds nothing new.

As to her goal to make me doubt my existence as I recall it, I wasn’t convinced. Especially since I can and have documented key memories and have friends, family and acquaintances that have helped verify my recollections. Those memories which I can’t document I regard as suspect, but they are not critical to my day to day existence.

On the other hand, she makes many good points about the unreliability of undocumented, unsubstantiated memories. I too have implanted memories in people’s minds and manipulated their cognitive biases and think everyone could benefit from knowing how this can happen and that it can and does happen to them.

The narrator mispronounces several common scientific words or, is an American accent pronouncing British pronunciations, not sure. I got over it as the book wore on.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Questioning all.

Insight to how minds work; the importance of critical investigation of our (and others) memories/biases.

10 of 15 people found this review helpful

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I never thought of it this way

Where does The Memory Illusion rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Good non-fiction. Interesting psychology book.

What other book might you compare The Memory Illusion to and why?

Pinker's, "Better Angels of our Souls"

Have you listened to any of Siri Steinmo’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

The narrator is great. Straight forward and direct. Makes the complicated story easy to listen to.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, I listened to it in segments. It is not a novel.

9 of 14 people found this review helpful

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Poor medium, poor performance

The anecdote / theory / example structure of the text begs for constant cross-referencing and review that is not possible in audio book format.

Also, the presenter doesn't know how to pronounce synapse...a jarring error that never ceases to annoy and ruins the experience.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • JR
  • 06-29-16

An unpleasant listen

What would have made The Memory Illusion better?

I never thought I would actually catch myself saying this about a non-fiction book, but here it is: a less arrogant and less condescending tone of the book would have made it so much better and actually enjoyable! Sine the topic of the book is truly fascinating. However, together with the narrator's voice I found it a thoroughly unpleasant listen. On a plus side (from the few chapters I managed to listen to), the book seems to be convincing and easy to follow. From the negative side, even though I found myself agreeing with everything the author was saying, I kept finding myself wanting to actually disagree just because of the self-righteous tone of the book. I tried to keep listening, but since I was not getting any pleasure out of it - was unable to carry on, even though this was exactly the book I was waiting for - a scientific explanation of how memory and brain work. Such a shame! Will be returning it.

Would you ever listen to anything by Julia Shaw again?

No, absolutely not. The author's writing style is not for me.

Would you be willing to try another one of Siri Steinmo’s performances?

No, absolutely not.

38 of 45 people found this review helpful

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  • Patrycja
  • 11-15-16

There is no multitasking or photographic memory...

Overall: It is very good book. Should be read in schools. Everybody should read it. Memory is fundamental to understand the humans. Our perception of the world and our life depends on it. The performance is ok but it's a bit too quick to my opinion. Persevere to the end, the book gets better and better.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Paul Hinds
  • 07-08-16

Your past is an illusion

What did you like most about The Memory Illusion?

What a great listen! Dr Shaw presents us with a huge weight of scientific evidence to demonstrate why our cherished memories could well be a work of fiction. I particularly liked the way she goes through the various research providing both a technical but also a lay person's explanation of what it means in the context of current memory research and its implications on both the individual and society, in particular the criminal justice system.

It made me appreciate how much our memories shape who we are and how they define us and influence our decisions. There is some biology in there on how the brain works, but this is explained clearly and succinctly. The bulk of the book focuses on how our brains (and sometimes those around us) can be deceived into thinking we have a clear memory of something when it didn't happen.

I chose this book on a whim, and am glad I did so, or at least I have a memory of enjoying it.........

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Memory Illusion?

Hearing that 'hypnosis' in the sense that most people use it does not exist and coming to the realisation that I may not be the person I think I am!

11 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Broken Down Angel
  • 04-14-17

Really good reading/list to understand memory more

Accessable information

Great stuff on the research

Would like more on how to use it for learning, but that's probably a whole other, focused, book

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • A
  • 02-08-18

Insufferable narration

While I found the topic of the book fascinating, I did not enjoy my listening experience. The narrator’s monotone voice and repetitive intonation make this audiobook grating to listen to. The condescending tone adopted by the reader is truly insufferable.

Narration aside, Shaw misrepresented some of her previous empirical findings. For example, her paper from 2015 said that number of participants with induced false memories was 70%. Actual number is somewhere between 26% and 30%. Her findings have been widely critiqued by other researchers in that area.

Still - an interesting book (but get it in print!)

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  • cb
  • 02-12-17

Good book but gets tedious at times

Pretty good book but I personally could do with fewer examples - despite the author's best efforts to keep it entertaining, it felt at times she was driving the same point home over and over again. Also, for me personally the narrator's voice was a bit annoying, although to be fair she read it quite well overall (of you ignore her not knowing how to pronounce certain people's names). Overall, a decent book on how unreliable memory can be.

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  • MarcF
  • 02-10-17

The Memory Illusion

This is a lively reading of a really interesting and thought-provoking book. I will almost certainly listen again.

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  • Booka
  • 01-15-17

Interesting intro to memory

The book explained how fallible our memories are and gave good examples for when this can become problematic (e.g. Solving crimes that happened a long time ago).
It also explained how easy it is to form new memories of events that didn't happen. Whilst this is worrying it is less worrying than the fact that few people understand this!
Definitely worth a listen to if you're interested in memory.

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  • Metaltoe
  • 01-03-17

Illuminating.

I enjoyed this. Lots of food for thought and interesting examples of how our memory processes can't be trusted. Well narrated.

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  • Roger Hicks
  • 12-23-16

We can remember the future!

Thank you for this fantastic piece of work that questions humanities use of the mind and thoughts. Perhaps memory is better used to recall and remember our creative imagination ability to think about our wildest dreams and remember the future, not think about the past. For me the underlying message is, don't take thoughts too seriously, think well and be lucky.