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Confabulating as Unreliable Imagining: In Defence of the Simulationist Account of Unsuccessful Remembering

  • Kourken Michaelian


This paper responds to Bernecker’s (Front Psychol 8:1207, 2017) attack on Michaelian’s (Front Psychol 7:1857, 2016a) simulationist account of confabulation, as well as his defence of the causalist account of confabulation (Robins, Philos Psychol 29(3):432–447, 2016a) against Michaelian’s attack on it. The paper first argues that the simulationist account survives Bernecker’s attack, which takes the form of arguments from the possibility of unjustified memory and justified confabulation, unscathed. It then concedes that Bernecker’s defence of the causalist account against Michaelian’s attack, which takes the form of arguments from the possibility of veridical confabulation and falsidical relearning, is partly successful. This concession points the way, however, to a revised simulationist account that highlights the role played by failures of metacognitive monitoring in confabulation and that provides a means of distinguishing between “epistemically innocent” (Bortolotti, Conscious Cogn 33:490–499, 2015) and “epistemically culpable” memory errors. Finally, the paper responds to discussions by Robins (Synthese 1–17, 2018) and Bernecker (Front Psychol 8:1207, 2017) of the role played by the concept of reliability in Michaelian’s approach, offering further considerations in support of simulationism.


Confabulation Episodic memory Causal theory of memory Simulation theory of memory Epistemic innocence 



Thanks to two anonymous referees for exceptionally detailed comments on an earlier version of this paper and to an audience at the Mental Time (Travel): Memory and Temporal Experience workshop hosted by the Centre for Philosophy of Time at the University of Milan in 2018 for extremely helpful feedback. This paper grew out of discussions at the PERFECT Memory workshop at the University of Cambridge in 2017 and was greatly stimulated by Sarah Robins’ talk on confabulation at the Philosophical Perspectives on Memory workshop at the University of Adelaide in 2017.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Michaelian declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratoire PPLUniversité Grenoble-AlpesGrenoble CedexFrance

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