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Self-serving confabulation in prose recall

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Stephen Tyrer


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Recent studies suggest that the content of confabulation is mainly positive and self-enhancing. In this group study, we aimed to investigate whether this positive bias is specific to self-referent information. Confabulating amnesic patients, amnesic non-confabulating patients and healthy controls were asked to reproduce a series of short stories. We manipulated the emotional valence of the material by including positive, negative and neutral story plots. We also manipulated the self-reference of the material by including self-referent versus other-referent encoding instructions. Confabulating patients were as impaired as a group of amnesic patients in the amount of information they recalled, both groups being worse than healthy controls. Importantly, confabulating patients showed a selective bias in the negative self-referent condition, in that they recalled such information in a manner which portrayed a more positive image of themselves. This positive bias was not present in stories that were not encoded in a self-referent manner and it was not significantly correlated to patients' self-reported mood. We propose that both confabulation and its motivated content result from a deficit in the control and regulation of memory retrieval, which allows motivational factors to acquire a greater role than usual in determining which memories are selected for retrieval. To this extent, the self-enhancing content of confabulation could be explained as a neurogenic exaggeration of normal self-serving memory distortion. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Fotopoulou A, Conway MA, Solms M, Tyrer S, Kopelman M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Neuropsychologia

Year: 2008

Volume: 46

Issue: 5

Pages: 1429-1441

ISSN (print): 0028-3932

ISSN (electronic): 1873-3514

Publisher: Pergamon


DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2007.12.030

PubMed id: 18304591


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