The AGM and Remembering, Forgetting, & the Science of False Memory


First things first, a WI doesn’t work without some serious behind the scenes Mafia type organisational skills. For the last year the committee has planned, organised and executed all the meetings and subgroups which we as members get to enjoy, and who without which we would be cake and raffle less. So thank you to our dedicated team of ladies, and an especially big thanks to the ladies that are leaving the committee this time round: Jo Mayhew, Louise Corden, Jasmine Didymus and  Rachael Walker. Ladies we salute you! Welcome to Caroline Brooks who has rejoined the committee this year.

Special thanks to the lovely ladies from Middlesex federation who attended our organised chaos again this year, and for braving the basements of east London.

KP VP, Our lovely Sarah of Middlesex Fed (HQ), and Angie
KP VP, Our lovely Sarah of Middlesex Fed (HQ), and Angie

Next up was the fabulous Dr Julia Shaw, so popular was her talk that it was one of our busiest evenings. Shock horror two chaps actually turned up to attend… (sorry Gents, ladies only!)

Dr Shaw
Mind Ninja!

Dr Julia  is a senior lecturer in the Department of Law and Social Sciences at London South Bank University. Julia’s talk took us through the astonishing world of memory: from why you can’t recall a name you’ve said hundreds of times to your brain creating false memories.

Basically everything you ever remember is a LIE… sort of. Every time you remember an event you are reconstructing it and have the ability to change it… Which makes us all fantastic JK Rowling style writers of our own autobiographies… such fun!


Did this meeting even happen or am I just making it up, or mis-remembering it? Do repressed memories exist? Can you make someone remember a crime they didn’t commit? In an experiment by Dr Shaw she managed to convince 70% of her participants to remember a crime they didn’t commit… she’s like a mind ninja!  But more importantly Dr Shaw’s work actually has implications when it comes to witness statements and memories of crimes.  Researchers have speculated that certain tactics may lead people to recall crimes that never occurred, and could potentially lead to false confessions. Dr Shaw’s study was one of the first studies to provide evidence to suggest that full episodic false memories of committing crime can be generated in a controlled experimental setting. If you want to read more on the study you can read the paper here.

In a crime involving a weapon people are more likely to remember details of the weapon than the perpetrator. So if you are planning on committing a crime… don’t. There’s no need to be a git.

Dr Shaw has a book out on the 16th June – The Memory Illusion: Remembering, Forgetting, and the Science of False Memory –  which you can purchase from a member of a legendary race of female warriors believed by the ancient Greeks to exist in Scythia or elsewhere on the edge of the known world (Amazon.)

Blog post by Jen Lane on behalf of Shoreditch Sisters WI