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The Situation of Confabulation

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posted on May, 15 2010 @ 09:47 PM
Hey ATS, a couple of months ago I was having a conversation with a friend and an interesting topic came up.

He brought up that people make up stories to explain away things they have gone through in their life, good or bad.

For example if you didn't get the promotion at work you start thinking and creating a story in your head to justify what happened. There are examples for so many other situations like self worth, relationships, religion etc...

This got me interested so I searched around and found some interesting information on Confabulation and just how much it is a part of our everyday lives.

The kind of storytelling my grandmother did after a series of strokes . . . [n]eurologists call . . . confabulation. It isn’t fibbing, as there is no intent to deceive and people seem to believe what they are saying. Until fairly recently it was seen simply as a neurological deficiency – a sign of something gone wrong. Now, however, it has become apparent that healthy people confabulate too.

Confabulation is clearly far more than a result of a deficit in our memory, says William Hirstein, a neurologist and philosopher at Elmhurst College in Chicago and author of a book on the subject entitled Brain Fiction . . . . Children and many adults confabulate when pressed to talk about something they have no knowledge of, and people do it during and after hypnosis. . . . In fact, we may all confabulate routinely as we try to rationalise decisions or justify opinions. Why do you love me? Why did you buy that outfit? Why did you choose that career?

At the extreme, some experts argue that we can never be sure about what is actually real and so must confabulate all the time to try to make sense of the world around us.

So confabulation can result from an inability to recognise whether or not memories are relevant, real and current. But that’s not the only time people make up stories, says Hirstein. He has found that those with delusions or false beliefs about their illnesses are among the most common confabulators. He thinks these cases reveal how we build up and interpret knowledge about ourselves and other people.

Even when we think we are making rational choices and decisions, this may be illusory too. The intriguing possibility is that we simply do not have access to all of the unconscious information on which we base our decisions, so we create fictions upon which to rationalise them, says Kringelbach. That may well be a good thing, he adds. If we were aware of how we made every choice we would never get anything done – we cannot hold that much information in our consciousness. Wilson backs up this idea with some numbers: he says our senses may take in more than 11 million pieces of information each second, whereas even the most liberal estimates suggest that we are conscious of just 40 of these.

Nevertheless it is an unsettling thought that perhaps all our conscious mind ever does is dream up stories in an attempt to make sense of our world. “The possibility is left open that in the most extreme case all of the people may confabulate all of the time,” says Hall.

I thought it was an interesting read, hoped you liked it.

posted on May, 15 2010 @ 10:46 PM
Hey! Nice thread. I was a bit turned off by the topic title, but this definitely looks like a good read. I'll reply in full once I've read the whole thing. Not tonight, it's getting late, but this is quite interesting.

With kind regards,

posted on May, 15 2010 @ 10:51 PM
Great post.I wish everyone on ATS would read it and understand it!
Won't happen though!
This explains much of the "unexplainable" stories people tell.
I hope light bulb goes on in at LEAST one persons head!
A thoughtful, knowledgable usefull post You deserve a thousand stars!

posted on May, 15 2010 @ 10:57 PM
Thanks for the kind words.

I agree that this would be a good read for a lot of people on ATS because it gives you another way to evaluate how you perceive your life. The stories we ascribe to situations may not always be the soundest theories

posted on May, 15 2010 @ 11:24 PM
reply to post by TV_Nation

I've tried to explain this to people before.Most simply cannot understand that their memories may not be correct. I guess that's part of the process.
Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable, contrary to popular belief.
I people interested in UFO's, paranormal or ANY subject would not so cavilierly reject "conventional" science ( They do this through ignorance), they would have a greater ability to understand and interpret these subjects.
Too bad your post isn't sexy/dumb enough to attract readers!
Thanks though, good work.

posted on May, 16 2010 @ 04:37 AM
In the OP quoted blog entry, several psychological phenomena have been conflated into confabulation

For example, there is no controversy, and nothing pathological, that much of our cognitive apparatus displays the performance quality called "anytime." That is, perception and inference often give a "best estimate" promptly, rather than urging us to retire to a mountantop to contemplate every question that may be posed, so that every answer we give will be accurate.

"Why did you scratch your nose?" The person gives an answer involving voluntary choice, but - aha! gotcha! you were priming your musculature to do it!

Let us put aside that the nervous system has autonomous anticipatory elements (in other words, parts of the nervous system guess what other parts will do next), and that the interepid neurophysiologist may simply have stumbled upon one of those. And yes, this operates below conscious awareness.

(Unless you have turned this feature off, your browser is probably trying to guess which link you are going to click next, and has already sent a packet or two to locate that link's target. Most people are unaware that their browsers do that. Most people have as much awareness about what their nervous systems are doing as they have about their browsers' background activities.)

So, who leaves more children: somebody who answers a stupid question (why did you scratch your nose?) briskly with a "best estimate," or someone who drops everything, studies their neural traces, and two hours later comes up with the correct answer? About why he scratched his nose.

Real confabulation is a downhill trend in the realism of a series of answers to related questions. It is used to distinguish between beliefs that are simply unusual, unpopular, or poorly articulated from beliefs that are pathological manifestations.

There is nothing odd about believing in aliens. There is only a little oddity in always wearing a hat. It is when you ask about the hat, and it's there to block the aliens' laser probes that a trend is established.

In a good confabulation, it wll be a long time before the chain of questions and answers comes to an end. "Well, when you're indoors, wouldn't the building protect you?" "No, these are advanced lasers; they can penetrate walls without destroying them."

In addition to lack of realism, there usually is an "improvised" quality to the answers. The bottom line is that an inherently subjective judgment (this person is mentally ill) can be substantiated in a way that gives a large measure of interpersonal agreement.

posted on May, 16 2010 @ 10:15 AM
I LOVE this topic! Great. Simply great. I wish it would get more attention. That article was amazing to read. Especially first thing in the morning. Thank you again, a million times, for such an amazing article.


posted on May, 16 2010 @ 07:30 PM

Originally posted by LususNaturae
I LOVE this topic! Great. Simply great. I wish it would get more attention. That article was amazing to read. Especially first thing in the morning. Thank you again, a million times, for such an amazing article.


Thanks, and as long as a few people enjoyed the read then I'm happy

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