Those with Anton’s syndrome believe they can see things around them even though they are completely blind. Patients with this and other syndromes confabulate in predictable circumstances: they believe and assert obvious falsehoods (e.g., that they can see what is on a table in front of them). I argue in this article that absent competing obligations, provoking such confabulations for non-medical purposes is problematic. I further argue that these confabulations share all relevant properties with a particular kind of everyday confabulation. Flashbulb memories—memories of surprising, monumental, emotionally laden events—are also believed, obvious falsehoods that occur in predictable circumstances. Hence, provoking such confabulations is also problematic, absent competing obligations. This leads to a counterintuitive conclusion: absent competing obligations, those who understand flashbulb memories ought to avoid asking people about their memories of experiences of flashbulb events such as the Challenger explosion or September 11, 2001.


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pp. 87-110
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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