Julia Shaw (psychologist)

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Julia Shaw
Julia Shaw 2018-03-10 (cropped).jpg
Shaw in March 2018
Born (1987-01-20) January 20, 1987 (age 34)
Alma materUniversity of British Columbia
Known forFalse memory syndrome
Scientific career

Julia Shaw (born January 20, 1987) is a German-Canadian psychologist and popular science writer who specialises in false memories.

Education and academic career[edit]

Shaw was born in Cologne, West Germany and grew up in Canada. In 2004 she started a BSc in psychology at the Simon Fraser University.[1] She went on to complete a Masters in Psychology and Law at Maastricht University in the Netherlands.[2] In 2009, she returned to Canada and was awarded a PhD at the University of British Columbia. Her doctoral thesis was entitled "Constructing Rich False Memories of Committing Crime".[3] Shaw remained in Canada, a lecturer at the University of Waterloo and the University of British Columbia.[4] In 2013 she became Lecturer in forensic psychology at University of Bedfordshire.[5] She joined London South Bank University as a Senior Lecturer in Criminology in 2015, before becoming an honorary[6] Research Associate at University College London in 2017.[7][8]

Shaw's primary expertise is in false memories and how law enforcement can use "tactics [that] may lead people to recall crimes that never occurred".[3] In one of her studies, she succeeded in getting 70% of the participants to create false memories or beliefs of events from their childhood that never took place, and this study was covered extensively in mainstream media.[1][9] The validity of this 70% finding has, however, been criticised by colleagues who recoded the data to conclude 26-30% of participants had false memories (with those with false beliefs without memory details not being counted as false memories in this recoding).[10] Shaw addressed the criticism in a 2018 article in Psychological Science, where she explained that the original coding categorized false beliefs as false memories--in keeping with past research that argued memory and belief are difficult to truly distinguish. [11]

Public engagement[edit]

Shaw is a contributor to Scientific American.[12] She gives public lectures on psychology and memory.[13][14][15] In 2016 she created a PBS Nova documentary, "Memory Hackers".[16] She contributes to podcasts and radio, and her work has been featured on the Discovery Channel and BBC, as well as appearing in Der Spiegel, Russia Today and The Times.[17][18][19][20][21][22] In 2016, Random House published her first book "The Memory Illusion", which has since been translated into 14 different languages.[23][24] In 2017 she gave a TEDx talk, "How False Memories Corrupt Our Identities, Politics and Justice System" at TEDxBergen and "Is Your Memory Just an Illusion?" at TEDxPorto.[25][26]


  • The Memory Illusion: Remembering, Forgetting, and the Science of False Memory. Random House, 2016, ISBN 978-1847947628
  • Making Evil: The Science Behind Humanity's Dark Side. Canongate Books Ltd., 2018, ISBN 978-1786891303


  1. ^ a b Bryce, Emma. "False memories and false confessions: the psychology of imagined crimes". Retrieved 2018-01-02.
  2. ^ "Julia Shaw Speaker, Speeches, Booking Agent | MFL Global". MFL Global. Retrieved 2018-01-02.
  3. ^ a b Julia Shaw; Stephen Porter (2015-03-01). "Constructing Rich False Memories of Committing Crime". Psychological Science. 26 (3): 291–301. doi:10.1177/0956797614562862. ISSN 0956-7976. PMID 25589599.
  4. ^ Shaw, Julia. "LinkedIn - Dr Julia Shaw". Uk.linkedin.com. Retrieved 2018-01-02.[dead link]
  5. ^ Siegel, Nathan. "Give This Woman 3 Hours and She'll Have You Confessing to a Crime You Didn't Commit". OZY. Retrieved 2018-01-02.
  6. ^ "j.shaw@ucl.ac.uk - UCL Search". Search2.ucl.ac.uk. Retrieved 17 September 2018.
  7. ^ profile at LinkedIn (retrieved 2016-09-26)
  8. ^ "Dr Julia Shaw Senior Lecturer - Criminology". London South Bank University. Archived from the original on 2017-03-16. Retrieved 2016-09-27.
  9. ^ Douglas Starr: Remembering A Crime That You Didn’t Commit. The New Yorker, 2015-03-05
  10. ^ Wade, K. A.; Garry, M.; Pezdek, K. (2017). "De-constructing rich false memories of crime: Commentary on Shaw and Porter (2015)". Psychological Science. 29: 471–476. doi:10.1177/0956797617703667. PMID 29315022.
  11. ^ Shaw, Julia (2017). "How Can Researchers Tell Whether Someone Has a False Memory? Coding Strategies in Autobiographical False-Memory Research: A Reply to Wade, Garry, and Pezdek (2018)". Psychological Science. 29 (3): 477–480. doi:10.1177/0956797618759552. PMID 29451430.
  12. ^ "Stories by Julia Shaw". Scientific American. Retrieved 2018-01-02.
  13. ^ "Dr Julia Shaw - False memory in the workplace". YouTube. 2016-12-15. Retrieved 2018-01-02.
  14. ^ "Julia Shaw - Memory hacking: The science of learning in the 21st Century - LT17 conference". YouTube. 2017-02-28. Retrieved 2018-01-02.
  15. ^ Julia Shaw (2016-06-04), The Memory Illusion by Dr Julia Shaw, retrieved 2018-01-02
  16. ^ Julia Shaw (2016-02-17), Julia Shaw on "Memory Hackers" Nova, retrieved 2018-01-02
  17. ^ "What an expert on false memories can tell you about the EU debate". The Independent. 2016-06-20. Retrieved 2018-01-02.
  18. ^ "Ep 7: Dr Julia Shaw & Dr Brenna Hassett – Ada Lovelace Day". Findingada.com. Retrieved 2018-01-02.
  19. ^ Tom Whipple (2016-06-24). "False memory of sex abuse can be inspired by police". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 2018-01-02.
  20. ^ "Trügerische Erinnerungen: Der vermeintliche Verbrecher". Spiegel Online. 2016-08-16. Retrieved 2018-01-02.
  21. ^ "Dr. Julia Shaw: "Your imagination can be easily confused with your memory", Fearne Cotton and Professor Julia Shaw, Steve Wright in the Afternoon - BBC Radio 2". BBC. Retrieved 2018-01-02.
  22. ^ French, Christopher. "Explainer: what are false memories?". The Conversation. Retrieved 2018-01-02.
  23. ^ "The Memory Illusion: Remembering, Forgetting, and the Science of False Memory eBook: Julia Shaw: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 2018-01-02.
  24. ^ Shaw, Julia. "The Memory Illusion". Scientific American Blog Network. Retrieved 2018-01-02.
  25. ^ "How False Memories Corrupt Our Identities, Politics, and Justice System | Julia Shaw | TEDxBergen". YouTube. 2017-11-09. Retrieved 2018-01-02.
  26. ^ "Is Your Memory Just an Illusion? | A Tua Memória é Apenas Uma Ilusão? | Julia Shaw | TEDxPorto". YouTube. 2017-10-30. Retrieved 2018-01-02.

External links[edit]