Ever since I saw the word “confabulation” over on the facebook group “Situational Awareness Matters” (hosted and moderated by Dr. Richard Gasaway of SAMatters) I’ve been wanting to incorporate it into one of my Weekend Coffee Share/Safety Tip posts.
So, what do I talk about when I do my weekly “Coffee Share”?? – Well, I mostly write about things that (I hope) will help the folks out there that work in the field of Public Safety (Firefighters, Paramedics/EMTs, Police Officers, and other First Responders) to do there job in a safe manner.
Okay, so back to the word “confabulation“… What does the word even mean??
According to Mirriam Webster, the word has 3 meanings:
The one we are most concerned with here is the third meaning of the word “to fill in gaps in memory by fabrication”
So what is the difference between confabulation and straight out lying? Generally speaking, when a person lies they are making a conscious effort to do so in order to get out of getting into trouble. With Confabulation, there is not a conscious effort to lie but rather it is the brain trying to make sense of that which makes no sense or seems implausible.
Here is what I found via Wikepedia:
Confabulation (verb: confabulate) is a memory disturbance, defined as the production of fabricated, distorted or misinterpreted memories about oneself or the world, without the conscious intention to deceive.
Read this article by Dr. Richard Gasaway – Confabulation, It sounds better than lying.
To Confabulate is a relatively easy thing to do, without the intention of doing so. As I understand, one of the easiest times to fall prey to the risk of confabulation is under times of stress or during information overload. Both of which are in abundance when dealing with a full on Emergency (especially when you are in position of command and have (what must feel like) the weight of everything and everyone squarely on your shoulders.
So what can be done to combat the risk of confabulation? Dr. Gasaway gives a couple good tips at the end of his article “You Can’t Handle the Truth”
He starts out with this important tip:
“It’s important to understand your vulnerabilities. Awareness of your shortcomings is the first step toward managing them. Situational awareness is an important ingredient in managing this cognitive shortcoming.”
Basically, a big key to combating the risk of confabulation is to, first of all, be aware of the dangers of it happening. How does the saying go?? The first step to fixing a problem is recognizing that the problem exists in the first place. Once you are aware of the problem you can go about finding ways to fix it. I won’t go into a bunch of details here, but I believe one thing that would help (seeing as how stress and information overload are key factors) is to properly delegate to take some of the stress off. And, secondly, ask yourself – Did I really see/hear what I thought I did. Does it make sense in relation to all the information I am currently receiving. Often times, by asking yourself these questions, you will find that what you thought you saw or heard was not infact what actually happened.
Remember to Stay Alert, Stay Safe, and Stay Alive.