Self-serving confabulation in prose recall

A Fotopoulou, M A Conway, M Solms, S Tyrer, M Kopelman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


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. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1429 - 1441
Number of pages13
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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