There really is a word “confabulation.” It is defined as “the spontaneous production of false memories: either memories for events which never occurred, or memories of actual events which are displaced in space or time.” The memories could be extremely bizarre, elaborate, detailed, or simply a combination of actual happenings and imagination. They could range from alien abduction to having French toast for breakfast when in fact they had eggs.

Confabulation is combining your real life memories with your imagination. Sometimes it can be funny and abstract, while other times it seems very real. Often it is difficult to differentiate delusions from lying, but actually the person is not consciously lying, their brain has just combined the imaginary with the reality. They actually firmly believe what they are remembering is what actually happened.

Some may think of confabulation as a false memory, where a normal individual would “suddenly remember” supposedly repressed incidents from childhood. It is not a false memory. It is a memory disorder, often occurring in someone who has sustained brain damage to both the basal forebrain and the frontal lobes – such as from an aneurysm to the anterior communication artery.

Not everyone who experiences confabulation has had brain damage, but it usually occurs as a result of some type of neurological or psychological dysfunction. For example: patients with “Korsakoff’s syndrome,” a form of amnesia caused by alcohol abuse or malnutrition, confabulate by guessing an answer or imagining an event and then believing the memory is real.

People with normal brain function may have memory slips or errors, or even become confused over time due to a mixture of different memories, but this is not the same as confabulation.

Confabulation has no known cause, other than brain damage. If no brain damage is sustained then the cause could be a dumber of things. For example: a person who said they had French toast for breakfast may have become confused and retrieved a memory of yesterday’s breakfast. In this case his answer – and the memory it was based on – may have been quite accurate; the events simply did not happen at the time he claimed.

Confabulation sometimes goes away spontaneously, leaving is quickly as it came. In other cases, therapy could help the patient in becoming aware of his tendency to confabulate and the incidents will begin to disappear.

The act of confabulation could actually serve an important role in the patient’s life by healing emotional wounds, or preventing painful memory. They prop-up the confabulator’s self-esteem and regulate his/her sense of self-worth. They serve as organizing principles in social interactions. The distinctions between reality and fantasy are rarely completely lost, and deep inside the healthy confabulator knows where facts and fantasy stop.



About the author:

Ron White is a two-time U.S.A. Memory Champion and memory training expert. As a memory keynote speaker he travels the world to speak before large groups or small company seminars, demonstrating his memory skills and teaching others how to improve their memory, and how important a good memory is in all phases of your life.



Wikipedia – Confabulation:

Memory Loss and the Brain – Confabulation:

The Narcissist’s Confabulated Life, by Dr. Sam Vaknin: