Confabulators mistake multiplicity for uniqueness

Cortex. 2014 Sep;58:239-47. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2014.06.011. Epub 2014 Jun 25.


Some patients with organic amnesia show confabulation, the production of statements and actions unintentionally incongruous to the subject's history, present and future situation. It has been shown that confabulators tend to report as unique and specific personal memories, events or actions that belong to their habits and routines (Habits Confabulations). We consider that habits and routines can be characterized by multiplicity, as opposed to uniqueness. This paper examines this phenomenon whereby confabulators mistake multiplicity, i.e., repeated events, for uniqueness, i.e., events that occurred in a unique and specific temporo-spatial context. In order to measure the ability to discriminate unique from repeated events we used four runs of a recognition memory task, in which some items were seen only once at study, whereas others were seen four times. Confabulators, but not non-confabulating amnesiacs (NCA), considered repeated items as unique, thus mistaking multiplicity for uniqueness. This phenomenon has been observed clinically but our study is the first to demonstrate it experimentally. We suggest that a crucial mechanism involved in the production of confabulations is thus the confusion between unique and repeated events.

Keywords: Amnesia; Confabulation; Hippocampus; Temporal consciousness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Amnesia / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests