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Confabulation is the act of creating a false event to fill in the gaps of missing memory and is a hallmark sign of dementia. Of course confabulation does not have to be limited to those with dementia, as one could unintentionally create false events as well, it has been described as a blurring of reality with fantasy. It can also be applied to the false interpretation of memories which is different from lying in that the person does not intentionally wish to deceive. It seems our political narrative has been taken over by confabulation. Many have noticed the rewriting of history (i.e. Reagan decreased the size of government, Obama’s administration developed TARP) that flies in the face of facts. It could very well be that the short-term memory loss sustained in the rabid, power hungry minds of those who retell history incorrectly isn’t intentional. Maybe there is some organic biological reason for their distortion of the facts. Perhaps they do not look to the facts at all, they just focus on memory alone. This phenomena is seen in eye-witness testimony where three people can tell very different sets of facts, they are all telling the truth to their ability, but their memories are not made the same. (As far as the politicians go though, I highly doubt it is unintentional but maybe instead of saying “You lie!” We could say “You confabulate!”)

Confabulation can be proved, as it is deemed unintentional, who could argue that when faced with facts. On the other hand for a lie to be a lie, you have to prove intent of deceit. It may open up the dialogue for fact-finding instead of fault-finding. With all the confabulation going around by the far-right Tea Party candidates, we need something, some phrase that will open up the narrative for further discussion. So when the facts are being misinterpreted or misrepresented, I will say “I believe you may be confabulating _ (events, facts, etc.)” sure they may not know what it means, but it is less offensive than calling someone a liar. It may open up an opportunity for teaching, who knows? It also happens to be one of my new favorite words.

Comments on: "Confabulation" (13)

  1. another trope said:

    Perfect. Confablators. Should Maddow have a new segment: Ab ConFab? I think so. (hopefully I’m not making too obscure tv reference there)

    And I do have to wonder what kind of dialogue we would have had in the media had Rep. Joe Wilson had shouted out during Obama’s State of the Union speech: “You confabulate!”

  2. Excellent post, PFC. I myself have discovered that, even though I have a great memory when it comes to things that happened in my childhood, I didn’t have all the facts straight. So when I would discuss childhood memories with my mother or my sisters, they’d say, “No, that’s not really how it went, Lissie, but I’m amazed you remember such and such which happened around the same time.” I tended to get my memories incorrectly fused together to create a whole new narrative. So, yes, it happens quite often and yes, it’s a great word.

    You hit upon a great point here when you said we should point out to others, not that they are lying or are telling falsehoods, but perhaps they simply don’t have the facts right. And then we can point them to the real facts thanks to such web sites as Media Matters, Urban Legends, etc.

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