Report: 15th TCCP Colloquium 29th May 2009: Confabulation

25 June, 2009 John O'DEA

In this month’s colloquium, John O'Dea gave a paper on the phenomenon known as “confabulation”, based largely on William Hirstein’s recent monograph, Brain Fiction.

Confabulation was originally described as a symptom of Korsakoff’s Syndrome, whereby sufferers of the syndrome are unaware that they have amnesia, and construct a narrative to cover their lack of memory. Though the narrative appears to be made up on the spot, it is nevertheless sincerely believed. Recent experiments on choice blindness by Petter Johansson and colleagues suggest that when we are asked to give reasons for making certain choices, the reasons we give seem to be “made up” in a way similar to clinical confabulation. In this paper O'Dea argued that there is an important difference between clinical confabulation and the phenomenon of choice blindness, having to do with the idea of reliability in ordinary circumstances.

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