Confabulation: why telling ourselves stories makes us feel ok

When we don't know the reasons behind our choices, we confabulate. 

Photo: Oscar Keys via Unsplash.com

In a now classic experiment, the psychologists Richard E Nisbett and Timothy Wilson at the University of Michigan laid out a range of items, such as pairs of stockings, and asked people to select one. Participants consistently preferred the items on their most right-hand side. But when they were asked to explain their choices, they did not mention the position of the items, and instead attributed their choices to the superior texture or colour of the chosen pair of stockings, even when the displayed pairs were all identical. People confabulated. Not knowing some of the factors that were determining their choices, they produced an explanation that was not based on evidence relevant to the factors determining their choices, but mentioned instead plausible reasons why the chosen item was better. 

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Beavis And Butt-Head. (Photo By Getty Images)

One day in 1995, a large, heavy middle-aged man robbed two Pittsburgh banks in broad daylight. He didn’t wear a mask or any sort of disguise. And he smiled at surveillance cameras before walking out of each bank. Later that night, police arrested a surprised McArthur Wheeler. When they showed him the surveillance tapes, Wheeler stared in disbelief. ‘But I wore the juice,’ he mumbled. Apparently, Wheeler thought that rubbing lemon juice on his skin would render him invisible to videotape cameras. After all, lemon juice is used as invisible ink so, as long as he didn’t come near a heat source, he should have been completely invisible.

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3 Ways to Start Making America Great Again

It's not by burning people's pictures and wearing the flag as a cape, but by understanding ourselves better, and understanding the person beside you.

Three Ways America Can Be United Again - Through Decision-Making

3 Ways We Can Make America Great Again – Through Decision Making

Looks Like We're Making America Great Again. Here Are 3 Ways to Contribute.

 

 

Boy Scout Anthony Tucker holds up an American Flag during the nation's largest Veterans Day Parade in New York City on November 11, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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