Pathologies of memory: Distortions of recall

Various types of memory recall distortions are being presented in the following article.

First, retrospective falsification, also called delusional memory which describes unintentional distortion of memory as dictated by the person´s current emotional and cognitive state and psychological needs/ wishes. Any psychiatric illness might induce the patient to have proof for such memories, and the patient is convinced of the validity of the clearly false memories. Such pseudo-memories can be described in extensive detail. Once the patient recovers from given psychiatric disorder, the memory distortions also resolve.

Second, screen memory which is the recollection that is partially true and partially false. It is believed that individuals only recall part of the true memory because the entirety of the true memory is too painful to recall. The difficulty lies in distinguishing those elements that are objectively true in the memory. The notion of screen memories was first presented by Freud: any memory could be a screen memory if as much as one aspect of it screened out something unacceptable to the ego.

Third, confabulation which describes the unintentional production of inappropriate and fabricated information. The false information tends to be tedious or dull like for example reports about past events that never happened. In most instances, it is utilized to attempt to cover memory gaps. Furthermore, it is often associated with a failure to inhibit incorrect responses, poor error awareness, and poor self-correction abilities. Patients tends to disregard the truth, if they are even aware of it, they do not intentionally deceive, that is why confabulations are sometimes called "honest lying “. This also occurs in individuals with healthy cognitive functioning. A subtype is fantastic confabulation, which is rare but occurs in delirium, advanced dementia or psychosis and includes expressing clearly false tales that can go beyond nature’s rules and is often accompanied by other false grandiose memories of great accomplishment.

Fourth, Pseudologia fantastica also called pathological lying which includes stating clearly false statements, in a fluent, plausible, but lying manner. Lies are often being told unnecessarily and elaborate fabrications, are usually used to impress others, in order to get out of an awkward situation, or to give the individual an ego boost. It is possible for a pathological liar to create a whole new identity based on various fantastic lies. Unlike confabulation, fantasies are believed only momentarily and dropped as soon as they are contradicted by evidence. If confronted they will admit their lying. It is usually encountered in forensic practice in those accused of fraud, swindling, making false accusations or false confessions. It is associated with factious disorder, conduct disorder and antisocial personality disorder.

Lastly, malingering is the purposeful production of falsely or grossly exaggerated physical and/or psychological symptoms with the goal of receiving a reward. Factious disorder includes similar symptoms with exception of the origin of the action. It is rather a psychological need than linked to a specific reward. Both are linked to antisocial pathologies.

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