I think it does both. On the one hand since people's brains will attempt to "fill in" the missing information it is our responsibility as historians, and perhaps more importantly, as history teachers to gather as many primary sources as possible. On the other hand, seeing exactly what information was filled in, or how a person viewed an event, could give us psychological insight to a person of the time and place, or side of a conflict. (Accounts of the Boston massacre for example.)
I would not say it completely destroys it but it does not also inform the historical process completely either. As the article discussed, humans will invent stories to hold a narrative together. This is because as humans we want to believe something so badly that we change the narrative for the betterment of ourselves. It harms the historical process because often times some do not want to read an opposing argument. It can inform the historical process by being able to create a good debate on a topic with different ideas. Confabulation does more harm than good as creating history is never a good idea and not seeing different arguments is not a good idea. History in unique as it has many different sides and viewpoints that should be analyzed and not created just to preserve the narrative, that may be false.
The notion of confabulation makes history more engaging. As history teachers, we need to be aware of how to interest our students in the history, and narratives are an important part of achieving this goal. However, knowing that confabulation influences historical narratives is important. We, and our students, cannot take history at face value because human memory often creates its own ideas to explain unfamiliar events. As teachers, we need to be aware of this so that we provide students with multiple sources which will allow them to see how history can be misinterpreted by people. Although confabulation makes history more complicated, it does not destroy the process. In contrast, confabulation informs the historical process as historians need to be aware that it occurs so that there can be informed decisions about what actually occurred.
I believe that confabulation makes history more approachable. A good story is more easily remembered than historical facts. It is the teacher's responsibility to use stories to enhance the topic and not take away from the historical facts. For example, Herodotus is known as the first real historian, but he is also known as a masterful storyteller. He would mix the two, so a historian can not simply look at Herodotus work and take it as pure fact. It is up to the teacher or student of history to realize that confabulation takes place before they come to their own conclusions concerning history.
I think the confabulation of history has both positive and negative elements. On the positive side, as is so noted by the article, humans do love a good story and the art of storytelling can grab our attention and help us gain interest in a subject or topic. However, the abuse of this can lead to gross misunderstandings about not just the events of history, but the historical process itself - the "why's" and how's" of history. It is like the old stories of George Washington chopping down the cherry tree - completely false but they have been so ingrained in many American's psyches that many still believe it to be true. Although the moral lesson rings true, it creates a perception about Washington that is oversimplified and fails to provide nuance and real insight into the realities. Essentially, this idea of confabulations functions as "myth making". In the same way that the ancient Greeks and other cultures develop myths to explain their world, history is full of myths that may provide some small insights in the minds and cultures of those from the past, but they also distort history and create false impressions and perceptions that once ingrained are very difficult to shake without totally realigning our basic understanding of the world around us. Humans need to feel reassured, but is fabricating myths about ourselves really the best way to do that? Would it not be more reassuring to have a more accurate interpretation of the past so we can better navigate our future to avoid the mistakes of the past? Should we not deal with the realities of the past, even if those realities may be harsh or reveal disturbing things about ourselves as a people? Should we really idealize the past to make it more palatable? Is that not disingenuous and dangerous to us all as a people? These are the questions that instantly jump to my mind when reading this article. Take, for example, the Redeemer period in Southern U.S. history. They idealized a past that was in many ways destructive to society and by so doing only perpetuated a line of thinking that only led to further conflict and destruction. That was not a good thing, and not just for the African Americans they sought to keep under their heels, but for themselves as well and for us as a society today. We are still dealing with the legacy of the Redeemers today and in many ways the issues of that time have not been fully resolved. And it is all because some chose mythologize and confabulate the past.
I think the concept of confabulation isn't necessarily dangerous to the historical process. It's often the jobs of historians to hypothesize a credible chain of events with what they know, limited or not, and when presenting a historical narrative, we are often faced with some fillers in order to make a coherent storyline. While these fillers may not exactly be factual, they are likely based off of what we know and at least have some historical context to them, so I don't think they really hinder the impact of the actual facts that are being presented to us. I think that as long as we understand, specifically in the classroom, that confabulations are simply made up and not necessarily fact, they aren't harmful and can even be useful when trying to access the storytelling part of the brain.
To think that the notion of confabulation completely destroys the historical process is a bit of an exaggeration. Confabulation, to fill in gaps of memory with plausible inventions to preserve the narrative continuity, with history can allow it to become a tricky field to research. Most of recent history is able to be properly researched and studied without the idea of confabulation because of it being documented on paper. With some parts of the world, the idea of confabulation can become difficult with the lack of a written language in the history of certain peoples, such as Native Americans. For teachers, this can be a problem. On the spot, a teacher might forget about specific details of events throughout history and replace them with their best idea. This situation, while it is likely not detrimental to the students education, is not a positive circumstance for the student to be in. Filling in the gaps with plausible inventions could be something that informs the historical process, simply because it enhances the idea that history is a narrative, and sometimes that is how a narrative is built, like for a personal anecdote. Confabulation, in the end, is a limitation to the historical process because it removes the realism and detail of the narrative itself, potentially leaving the student missing out on the details that could engage them into the story.
To be honest, I do not understand the differences in different parts of the brain. That is, what the difference is between the frontal lobe and the cerebellum, or, the left hemisphere and the right hemisphere. However, I do know that I remember things far better when they are presented as a story, or in chronological order. A series of events that lead to an end state makes sense to me, which is probably why I love history. If things are not presented in a story, but is something I need to know, I do as the article said and fill in the blanks. I will make things up that lead me to the information that has to be remembered. I understand exactly what this article is saying because I am guilty of it as well.
I think the notion of confabulation helps to inform historical processes. If filling in gaps to complete a narrative helps history become more meaningful and cohesive for students, then it is definitely not destroying or harming history in any way. It clearly would be helping students understand it and remember it more. In my own life, I can see where the anecdotal stories stick out to me more and I remember learning from them the most. Therefore, it seems natural that we would approach history in the same way.
I do not believe that the notion of confabulation either destroys or informs the historical process. I see the positive and negative aspects of both, and I believe that it is our job as history teachers to use it correctly. Storytelling undoubtedly makes history more interesting and relevant to students, which can be a very difficult thing to do. From personal experience, learning in this style absolutely helps students remember the content. Facts can be difficult and boring for students to memorize. Confabulations, or "fillers," provide the bridge to these facts that create a story. While this is useful and has its perks, the last thing a teacher wants is to be presenting inaccurate information to their students. If a fact is not definite, a teacher could point this out to students and explain that historians sometimes have to make predictions about what happened using context clues. Also, teachers should be incorporating primary sources into their lessons whenever possible to help present the facts. Ultimately, confabulations will not completely ruin the historical process for students, but it should be used effectively and carefully.
I think that the process of confabulation can be both beneficial and harmful. It can help students of history better understand a historical event if presented to them in a way that is coherent and engaging. However, we have to be careful about how this is done. If the gaps of history are filled in with incorrect information, it ruins history and can make that history useless. As history teachers, we should make sure that history is useful. I think that these gaps can be used to spark discussion in the classroom and explain to students that we do not know every detail of a historical event. This also provides an opportunity for students to use a collection of primary sources and try to determine for themselves what really happened.
The notion of confabulation should be viewed as both potentially harmful and helpful to the historical narrative. It would be harmful because it does not provide a true account of history, especially if the filled in gaps are large. To counteract confabulation, a historian may have to go find evidence to back up a story to ensure the validity of what he read. In the same sense, these gaps can be helpful in creating a potential talking point in the classroom. Much of history is incomplete and imprecise and as teachers, we can use this to challenge the students to, for themselves, create a potential filler for a time period.
Often, people ask "Why do you want to teach history, it's so hard to remember everything?" or people will ask how they are suppose to remember what happens when. Most of those times I would say it's like a story, that's how I remember what's going on. So I like this idea of confabulation. I think that it is a good way to intrigue your students about the historical time period. Therefore I think that by using this strategy, but staying true to historical fact, would be beneficial to the students. Often when we ask students to write letters as though they are in that time period, we're asking them to fill in the narrative of the time period by things we don't necessarily cover in class.
This idea of historical process involves finding as much information as possible to create a holistic view of a person/place/or event. The natural inclination of the mind to create false memories that preserve the story is completely rational. To assume it destroys the historical process is false, because we as historians are bound by academic responsibility to find those inconsistencies and fill them in with research. It that sense, it is relevant to say that that confabulation neither destroys nor informs historical process. It merely creates a necessary driver to facilitate our academic responsibility.
I think the notion of confabulation helps the historical process because it helps us make assumptions for what may have happened in events that we have no records of or missing pieces in. Not every person will make the same assumptions or have the same idea to fill in these gaps therefore, this offers a wide range of plausible inventions that may have occurred. The struggle of history is that no one will ever know how events may have actually occurred when there is no written or oral history of it but, without this ability to create a narrative and invent how events may have possibly happened greatly increases historians ability to create a historical narrative.
I think that confabulation can be used to our advantage as teachers if we are aware of the benefits, as well as problems that is presented. If you understand that humans fill in the narrative then we need to give them the most accurate information to use to fill in the narrative. It reminds me of "Reading like a Historian" in the sense that we should become investigators into history. Don't worry only that Harrison made Columbus Day a holiday in 1892, but concern yourself more with why. Events all throughout history involve some speculation, but the more information, and different views that a teacher can present to a student, the better informed we can be about history.
I believe that confabulation can help us teach history and help students remember things more clearly. Throughout history we have written detail for important events so its easy to go back and see the bigger picture. However there are things in history that we can not be certain of, events that were not written about so confabulation can help us and the students picture what really happened and with that students can start to look at history as a story instead of set of facts and dates.
I believe that confabulation is a HUGE advantage that we have at our disposal as history teachers. It was discussed in the article that as long as the historical setting around the events are correct then the confabulation would absolutely work to get the students to retain the information learned in class. Creating a person that the students can relate to is a fantastic way to get them to remember what they learn in class.
The process of confabulation has both positive and negative elements. Everybody loves a great story and if you can use that to teach history then great. It will help students intrigued and wanting to learn more. However, a good story can be misleading and leave out key facts of what your are trying to teach. It can lead students to believe something that isn't necessarily true.
I think there are positives and negatives to confabulation. Students will definitely find history more interesting if there is a good story involved, but iI also think it is important for students to understand that although the story make be more interesting than the facts, the facts are what really matter, and the story just makes it interesting for them to understand/relate to.
Confabulation assists with the historical process because confabulation helps make assumptions which can useful when examining historical events that have missing records or that is unclear what may or may not happen. History is often unclear because none of us was there so confabulation helps fill in the blanks.
I think the notion of confabulation is very useful in the sense that it fills in gaps not everyone understands. There are gaps in history and confabulation helps fill in these blanks. I feel like if History is helping other students to comprehend material then it is useful.
I think that confabulation, and filling in the gaps does not interfere with the historical process. The ability to fill the gaps that may have been lost in memory allows for the process to become completed. It is up to historians to analyze and determine what, and how events happened. This could become beneficial.
I feel that confabulation does not hurt the historical process if used correctly. A good story is often more interesting and easier to remember than lots of tiny details. However,I believe as teachers it is important to help students understand that not all stories are factual and how to examine documents and resources to help separate fact from fiction.
Confabulation has both positive and negative effects. In a helpful manner it helps tell a story. In other words it is a long narrative that tells a story, and stories are good because they fill in gaps and answer unexplained or perhaps looked over points. Where it could have a negative impact is when a story fills in the gaps for students where they believe to be absolute. We all know that great stories can oftentimes leave out key facts, etc.
Confabulation effectively "fills in the gaps" for historical narratives that are incomplete. Mirroring a good story, this process allows for the missing details to be added in, to further enhance the overall story. This has to the potential, if applied correctly, to significantly improve the historical process.
The idea of confabulation is intriguing. I have seen studies done of human capacity to fabricate memories or information in order to align memory with reality. Regardless of these tendencies of the mind, humans are drawn to stories for some inexplicable reason. I know that from a young age, I loved stories, which led me to become an avid reader and has influenced my love for narrative in books, television, movie, and video games. No matter whether a person is obsessed with stories, all humans love them. We see oral and written histories develop in almost every culture. Perhaps people truly wanted to leave a record of events, but I believe that a love for story-telling had to be an influence in many cases. Mythology, religion, history, literature, even music are all based in narrative: the telling of a story. I think the reason why many students are willing to connect to a narrative more willingly than they are to other types of texts is due to the nature of a story. There are characters, emotions, and plot that all draw in the listener or reader. I think that is why a narrative is often irresistible when a bland listing of facts would be off-putting, and I think that places the burden on us to make history a narrative based pursuit.
The idea of confabulation is something I have never heard of, yet I find very intriguing. If used properly I don't believe confabulation would take anything away from the historical process, as long as teachers properly "fill in the gaps" in these stories. This method could potentially help students make deeper connections with the content that they wouldn't of made before.
Confabulation has its drawbacks, but as a whole it allows students to complete the historical process. It must be used effectively though, because if misused it can lead students down the wrong learning path. When used properly, it gives students opportunities to make deeper connections with the content that they may have missed out on before. Plus, it adds a more interesting element to content rather than just names, dates, and facts.
I wouldn't say it destroys it, I mean there are some things in history that we will never know for sure about unless we were there first hand. Filling in the gaps, adds some sense of mystery and fun the process. Makes a better story you could say, kinda like the story of John Smith. But, it must to be taken lightly. As teachers of history, we are viewed as people of respect and our students trust us. So if we are to fill in a part of a story that the said part is not known about, I say think carefully about it. Or, my favorite thing, to leave them with the multiple choice option of, "some say this and some say that. But we may never know."
Confabulation can take away from the historical process if we let it. While I am new to the subject, I believe that confabulation provides us with an opportunity to investigate. In order to uncover the truth, historians must analyze the information around them and compare this information to other sources. This process adds validity to an idea and strengthens an overall understanding of a given story.
Confabulation has the potential to either provide great investigative approach to learning but could actually make students confused about the material. If it is not properly included in a lesson then the repercussions are far worse than potential gains.
Associate professor of History EducationCollege of EducationEast Carolina University