Is the content of confabulation positive? An experimental study

Cortex. 2008 Jul-Aug;44(7):764-72. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2007.03.001. Epub 2007 Dec 23.


There has been little experimental work investigating the emotional content of confabulation, despite clinical descriptions of self-serving and affectively positive biases. False memories were elicited in 10 amnesic confabulating patients, 10 healthy controls and four amnesic control patients without confabulation. Memory protocols of the interviews with these groups were presented to naïve raters who were asked to rate the emotional valence of the listed confabulations. The false memories of the confabulating patients were found to distort previous experiences in ways significantly more pleasant and self-enhancing than those of controls. It was also found paradoxically that the more depressed the patients' mood the more positive the content of their confabulations. These findings suggest that the content of confabulation is mostly positive. The results have implications for the role of emotion and motivation in confabulation, as well as for the clinical management of confabulating patients.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Aged
  • Amnesia / complications
  • Amnesia / psychology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Deception
  • Delusions / complications
  • Delusions / psychology*
  • Depression / complications
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall
  • Middle Aged
  • Reference Values
  • Self Concept*