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Confabulation

 

Explanations > Brain stuff > Confabulation

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

Confabulation is the name given to the way people with brain damage or dysfunction will rationalize their experience. This can include the creation of new memories that appear to the person as being real.

Momentary or provoked confabulation is short-term and is caused by a stressful situation where the person needs an explanation to a presented question.

Fantastic or spontaneous confabulation are caused more by internal experiences than external pressures as the person describes their inner world. These can seem quite bizarre to other people, although the person may seem fully convinced about them.

Example

A person for confabulates blindsight by assuming the apparent 'seeing' is just luck.

Discussion

We all have a need to appear rational and so explain our experiences in a way that is acceptable both to ourselves and also to others. The experiences of people whose brains are not working as normal can be very confusing for them and they hence may make up, or 'confabulate' an explanation.

A particular issue is where the person cannot tell the difference between their inner world and the outer 'real' world. This is the 'source monitoring' issue. The complex way in which memories are stored can also lead to confabulation.

Of course a dilemma with explaining your own damaged brain is that you are using the damaged article to produce the explanation.

Confabulation can also be caused by physical causes, particularly when the anterior communicating artery is damaged. It can also be caused by brain chemistry issues, including the use of narcotics.

What is interesting about much confabulation is that it appears to be created at an unconscious level. The confabulating person thus appears to genuinely believe the explanation they are giving, even though to others it is clearly a bizarre situation and explanations given are clearly inadequate.

Note that confabulation as described here is not the same as Confabulation Theory, which is a broad theory about how knowledge and memory work.

See also

Blindsight, Memory

 

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