Using Confabulation To Defend Against Cognitive Dissonance

 

I had a fascinating conversation with a patient today. Very pleasant 81-year-old woman who is always a joy to be around. She grew up in a wealthy family in New Jersey, married a wealthy man, and is comfortably wealthy and reflexively liberal, like she’s supposed to be. Just the nicest person you’d ever want to meet. She asked how I thought COVID was likely to go in the next few years, and I first said that I don’t know of course, but then I said something like, “I think it will gradually get less dangerous, like all other viruses do. But I really don’t know, because this has behaved very differently than other coronaviruses, and other viruses in general. I don’t know where it came from, and I don’t understand how it works. If this was intentionally developed as a biological weapon, then I have no idea how this will go.”

She asked if I thought it really was a biological weapon, and I said, “I don’t know. But if China is developing biological weapons, then we have very serious problems. Problems a lot worse than COVID. I wouldn’t trust Obama or Trump or Biden or anyone else with biological weapons. I certainly wouldn’t trust Xi with them.”

Without missing a beat, she said, “Can you believe that Rittenhouse boy? He had this big, silly rifle that he’s not nearly old enough for, and he comes in from out of state pretending to be a tough guy, hoping to shoot some protestors. I can’t believe that he’s about to get away with murder.”

I just looked at her for a second and then said, “Well, um, OK, but I don’t think the Rittenhouse kid is likely to threaten Western civilization with biological weapons. * pause * But China might.”

She looked away and mumbled, “Well, yeah … “

What a strange conversation.

In Alzheimer’s disease, we call that confabulation. The Alzheimer’s patient is in a conversation, loses track of what is being discussed, gets confused, and starts talking about something that he knows about. So you’ll be talking about the weather, and all of a sudden, he’s talking about World War II or something. Their confusion and discomfort drives them to reach for something familiar and comfortable to them. Very common in Alzheimer’s.

After her blatant example of this, I’ve started to notice that this is very common in leftists, as well. If the facts don’t fit with their desired narrative, they start talking about transsexual bathrooms, or racist microaggressions, or systemic oppression, or whatever. Regardless of what we were talking about before. The topic doesn’t matter. Or at least, the topic doesn’t matter once they realize that they’re losing track of what they want to be real. Their confusion and discomfort drive them to reach for something familiar and comfortable to them.

My leftist brother-in-law does this. I’ll make a comment about how unseasonably cold it is, trying to avoid talking politics with him by talking about the weather. He somehow senses that weather is innately political, so he makes a comment about Charlottesville. It’s very rare to have a conversation with him that does not involve Charlottesville. It gets more surreal every time.

He’s just confabulating, I guess.

The world must look very strange to Alzheimer’s patients. And to leftists.

Odd that they develop similar methods of dealing with their cognitive dissonance.

Or, perhaps, it’s not odd at all …

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  1. John H. Member
    John H.
    @JohnH

    People with dementia aren’t monomaniacs. They can entertain any one of a wide variety of subjects. Just not for very long.

    • #1
  2. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    She wasn’t just changing the subject? A lot of people will do that when the conversation takes them to places they haven’t thought much about.

    • #2
  3. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    John H. (View Comment):

    People with dementia aren’t monomaniacs. They can entertain any one of a wide variety of subjects. Just not for very long.

    With some types of dementia, that may be true.

    But with Alzheimer’s, they tend to have just a couple topics that they tend to fall back on.

    • #3
  4. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    John H. (View Comment):

    People with dementia aren’t monomaniacs. They can entertain any one of a wide variety of subjects. Just not for very long.

    That description fits a good friend of mine who suffers from dementia.

    • #4
  5. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Sports has gotten pretty bad lately, but it still can be common ground.  Trying to avoid Rittenhouse talk, I mentioned the Washington Football Team’s inexplicable victory over Tampa Bay to a friend. Response:  “Can you believe that  [expletive] Aaron Rodgers?”  Next time I’ll know enough to say “Stop with the confabulating!”

    • #5
  6. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Did she have Alzheimer’s? Because you weaved into your story that liberals’ brains work in the same manner – that’s interesting….hhmm. I’ve had the same experience – they don’t like the discussion so they either attack or shift topics or both. You can forgive an elderly woman in a doctor’s office, but the half of the country who elected Biden…..not so much.  Speaking of brain disorders…..what do you think Biden’s issues are (medically – we know the rest…)?

    • #6
  7. GrannyDude Member
    GrannyDude
    @GrannyDude

    I’ve noticed this too, Doc B. Especially if you’ve offered a really good, rational argument that contradicts what they’d previously been so completely sure of. 

    Abruptly…they switch! 

    • #7
  8. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    Did she have Alzheimer’s? Because you weaved into your story that liberals’ brains work in the same manner – that’s interesting….hhmm. I’ve had the same experience – they don’t like the discussion so they either attack or shift topics or both. You can forgive an elderly woman in a doctor’s office, but the half of the country who elected Biden…..not so much. Speaking of brain disorders…..what do you think Biden’s issues are (medically – we know the rest…)?

    I agree with this. People should watch the Bush-Gore and Bush-Kerry debates. They are surreal. Kerry and Gore did this all the time. 

    • #8
  9. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    Did she have Alzheimer’s?

    No – she doesn’t have Alzheimer’s, I don’t think.

     

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    Speaking of brain disorders…..what do you think Biden’s issues are (medically – we know the rest…)?

    I think it’s important to remember that he was never very smart to begin with.  He’s also always tended to wander a bit in his speeches, with lots of odd stories and side tracks that seem unrelated to his topic.  I have always wondered if something wasn’t quite right with Mr. Biden, even as a young man.  

    I remember when he was running for president in the 80’s, I think just before he dropped out because of one of his plagiarism episodes, he was in a debate, or some type of panel discussion.  Everybody answered a question, and it came to him.  He talked for a while, and I realized that I had no idea what he just said.  I looked at my friend across the room and shrugged my shoulders.  Then I looked back at the TV, and the other panelists were looking at each other like, “Um, what?”  I don’t even remember what the topic was.  But his answer was memorably, spectacularly stupid. 

    Other times, he can border on coherent.  But even then, usually, not quite.  He spends a lot of time wandering about, looking for a thought.

    Biden has always been like this.

    I think he’s also clearly worse now, but he turns 79 in a few days, so maybe he’s just slowing down a bit.  I’m not sure if he has dementia as such, although I can certainly see why many people think that he does. 

    I tend to think that Biden is just becoming more Bideney as he ages.  Although I’m not sure.  He may have some degree of dementia.  I’m not sure.

    • #9
  10. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    Did she have Alzheimer’s?

    No – she doesn’t have Alzheimer’s, I don’t think.

     

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    Speaking of brain disorders…..what do you think Biden’s issues are (medically – we know the rest…)?

    I think it’s important to remember that he was never very smart to begin with. He’s also always tended to wander a bit in his speeches, with lots of odd stories and side tracks that seem unrelated to his topic. I have always wondered if something wasn’t quite right with Mr. Biden, even as a young man.

    I remember when he was running for president in the 80’s, I think just before he dropped out because of one of his plagiarism episodes, he was in a debate, or some type of panel discussion. Everybody answered a question, and it came to him. He talked for a while, and I realized that I had no idea what he just said. I looked at my friend across the room and shrugged my shoulders. Then I looked back at the TV, and the other panelists were looking at each other like, “Um, what?” I don’t even remember what the topic was. But his answer was memorably, spectacularly stupid.

    Other times, he can border on coherent. But even then, usually, not quite. He spends a lot of time wandering about, looking for a thought.

    Biden has always been like this.

    I think he’s also clearly worse now, but he turns 79 in a few days, so maybe he’s just slowing down a bit. I’m not sure if he has dementia as such, although I can certainly see why many people think that he does.

    I tend to think that Biden is just becoming more Bideney as he ages. Although I’m not sure. He may have some degree of dementia. I’m not sure.

    Someone, don’t remember if it was Kevin Williamson or someone else, was part of a newspaper meeting with then-Senator or -candidate Biden where he was asked his position on some then-current issue.  The story goes something like “Biden opened his mouth; ~40 minutes later he closed it again, and during that time he succeeded in actually saying nothing.”

    • #10
  11. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):
    I tend to think that Biden is just becoming more Bideney as he ages.  Although I’m not sure.  He may have some degree of dementia.  I’m not sure.

    Reminds me of a story: 

    A reporter asked an opponent if Larry Bird had lost a step as he had aged.  The player responded that it was hard to tell, because Bird was never all that fast to begin with. 

    That’s sort of how I see Biden. 

    • #11
  12. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):
    I tend to think that Biden is just becoming more Bideney as he ages. Although I’m not sure. He may have some degree of dementia. I’m not sure.

    Reminds me of a story:

    A reporter asked an opponent if Larry Bird had lost a step as he had aged. The player responded that it was hard to tell, because Bird was never all that fast to begin with.

    That’s sort of how I see Biden.

    I see your point, but putting Larry Bird into the same scenario as Biden; well it just doesn’t work for me (sort of like an All-Pro to a lifetime nothing-burger.

    • #12
  13. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily
    @tigerlily

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Sports has gotten pretty bad lately, but it still can be common ground. Trying to avoid Rittenhouse talk, I mentioned the Washington Football Team’s inexplicable victory over Tampa Bay to a friend. Response: “Can you believe that [expletive] Aaron Rodgers?” Next time I’ll know enough to say “Stop with the confabulating!”

    Confounded confabulation!

    • #13
  14. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    tigerlily (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Sports has gotten pretty bad lately, but it still can be common ground. Trying to avoid Rittenhouse talk, I mentioned the Washington Football Team’s inexplicable victory over Tampa Bay to a friend. Response: “Can you believe that [expletive] Aaron Rodgers?” Next time I’ll know enough to say “Stop with the confabulating!”

    Confounded confabulation!

    Thuffering Thuccotash!

    • #14
  15. The Scarecrow Thatcher
    The Scarecrow
    @TheScarecrow

    I wonder if it was that phenomenon when two people are making essentially small talk, and one makes a gambit they assume the other will lean in and run with (“I hate Trump!” “Yes, I also hate Trump!” “Ah, what a dick is Trump.” “Yes, an astounding dick. We are good and smart because we agree on this.”).

    If you start exchanging pleasantries with your doctor after an examination, I assume you are expecting polite small-talkie agreement, to fill the time as you walk together out the door. You don’t really want to get into it.

    So when the doctor resists the obligatory acquiescence, the polite “Yes of course Trump is obviously the antichrist”, people get uncomfortable and just want to flee, wishing they hadn’t brought it up.  I don’t think that many 80-year-old ladies want to get into it.

    • #15
  16. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    GrannyDude (View Comment):

    I’ve noticed this too, Doc B. Especially if you’ve offered a really good, rational argument that contradicts what they’d previously been so completely sure of.

    Abruptly…they switch!

    In a leftist, it’s panic that does it. I’m not sure about other kinds of dementia.

    • #16
  17. navyjag Coolidge
    navyjag
    @navyjag

    “just like she’s supposed to be”.  Loved it.  Some folks never get out of what they were told as youngsters even with real with life experiences I guess. Had a similar conversation with a lawyer pal, you know him indirectly, about Rittenhouse.  Two ex JAGC lawyers contemplating if either of us  would ever take an M-16 and point it at a military jury in a murder General Court Martial. I said no; my buddy from 45 years said yes. Which went to more arguing about how the young kid reacted in Kenosha.  Got nowhere.  Glad I am not  a criminal lawyer. 

    • #17
  18. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    Damn them stupid cheating Astros!

    😜

    • #18
  19. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    Did she have Alzheimer’s?

    No – she doesn’t have Alzheimer’s, I don’t think.

     

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    Speaking of brain disorders…..what do you think Biden’s issues are (medically – we know the rest…)?

    I think it’s important to remember that he was never very smart to begin with. He’s also always tended to wander a bit in his speeches, with lots of odd stories and side tracks that seem unrelated to his topic. I have always wondered if something wasn’t quite right with Mr. Biden, even as a young man.

    I remember when he was running for president in the 80’s, I think just before he dropped out because of one of his plagiarism episodes, he was in a debate, or some type of panel discussion. Everybody answered a question, and it came to him. He talked for a while, and I realized that I had no idea what he just said. I looked at my friend across the room and shrugged my shoulders. Then I looked back at the TV, and the other panelists were looking at each other like, “Um, what?” I don’t even remember what the topic was. But his answer was memorably, spectacularly stupid.

    Other times, he can border on coherent. But even then, usually, not quite. He spends a lot of time wandering about, looking for a thought.

    Biden has always been like this.

    I think he’s also clearly worse now, but he turns 79 in a few days, so maybe he’s just slowing down a bit. I’m not sure if he has dementia as such, although I can certainly see why many people think that he does.

    I tend to think that Biden is just becoming more Bideney as he ages. Although I’m not sure. He may have some degree of dementia. I’m not sure.

    That wandering around and never answering a direct question with a concrete and knowledgeable answer is a disorder that also affected Obama and Hilary. I watched the debate with O and Mitt Romney, and he not only looked like he didn’t know a thing, he was a crafty switch artist. Hilary made a career out of it.

    • #19
  20. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    I tend to think that Biden is just becoming more Bideney as he ages. Although I’m not sure. He may have some degree of dementia. I’m not sure.

    That wandering around and never answering a direct question with a concrete and knowledgeable answer is a disorder that also affected Obama and Hilary. I watched the debate with O and Mitt Romney, and he not only looked like he didn’t know a thing, he was a crafty switch artist. Hilary made a career out of it.

    True.  Although I don’t think that anyone has ever described Biden as “crafty”.

    • #20
  21. jonb60173 Member
    jonb60173
    @jonb60173

    GrannyDude (View Comment):

    I’ve noticed this too, Doc B. Especially if you’ve offered a really good, rational argument that contradicts what they’d previously been so completely sure of.

    Abruptly…they switch!

    Amen.  This is nothing more than leftymentia.  ie – Change the subject abruptly when it’s obvious the other person knows what they’re talking about and it exposes your argument for the lunacy that it is.

     

    • #21
  22. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):
    I tend to think that Biden is just becoming more Bideney as he ages. Although I’m not sure. He may have some degree of dementia. I’m not sure.

    Reminds me of a story:

    A reporter asked an opponent if Larry Bird had lost a step as he had aged. The player responded that it was hard to tell, because Bird was never all that fast to begin with.

    That’s sort of how I see Biden.

    I see your point, but putting Larry Bird into the same scenario as Biden; well it just doesn’t work for me (sort of like an All-Pro to a lifetime nothing-burger.

    Larry Bird actually accomplished a few good things in his life. :-) 

    • #22
  23. Michael Brehm Coolidge
    Michael Brehm
    @MichaelBrehm

    If you will permit some amateur psychological spitballing: You probably were passing as a liberal in her mind until you brought up China potentially developing bioweapons. She then brought up Rittenhouse as a benchmark test to gauge your reaction, possibly so she could judge how much credence to assign to your previous statement.

    My guess is that if you wholeheartedly agreed with her Rittenhouse assessment, she would have then deemed your observations on COVID more credible. As such, your answer probably gave her a result of “inconclusive, but somewhat suspect.” ;-)

     

    • #23
  24. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    Provides insight into what happens to folks who don’t read nor watch TV outside of the mainstream media and why 40% still express support for a moron. 

    • #24
  25. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    I am not sure this is technically, confabulation. Confabulation refers to the production or creation of false or erroneous memories without the intent to deceive, sometimes called “honest lying” or it can be falsification of memory by a person who, believes he or she is genuinely communicating truthful memories.

    These people are changing the subject because they are losing an argument. 

    • #25
  26. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Remember those great Chris Farley celebrity interviews on SNL? The running joke was that he never asked for any information or insight but just restated something obvious and asked if the subject agreed.  Lefty politics generates conversations like that.  No curiosity, no desire to explore nuance or alternatives or challenge presumptions. Or learn.

    The climate must be changing dramatically because the proposed solutions are so desirable and the enemies of those solutions such evil caricatures and I am good and smart because I hate them. There must be systemic racism otherwise one might have to make difficult judgments about policies, history, change and personal behaviors.  Arming a teenager and sending him into chaos was nuts but that does not mean the kid deserved to be beaten to death or shot–but that gets complicated. Antifa guys bad?  No. MAGA teen with gun bad. There, comfortable again.

    Above all, one’s identity and membership must be affirmed. 

    • #26
  27. Columbo Member
    Columbo
    @Columbo

    • #27
  28. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Dr. Bastiat: The world must look very strange to Alzheimer’s patients. And to leftists

    Alzheimer’s disease and progressivism look very strange to me. But…my golf buddy started a conversation during our after-golf beer that went like this: “I am a progressive, but I do not understand all of this woke cancel stuff and the BLM crazies. If this keeps up, I may turn into a conservative like cdor.” I nearly fell off my barstool. This guy is a former public school teacher. But he is nearly 78 years old. Several generations have made all of the difference. The younger ones have been taught to disregard any rational thinking that might occur naturally.

    • #28
  29. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Other times, he can border on coherent.  But even then, usually, not quite.  He spends a lot of time wandering about, looking for a thought.

    Biden has always been like this.

    Unfortunately, it is during his short bouts of coherency when he is at his meanest.

    • #29
  30. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    jonb60173 (View Comment):

    GrannyDude (View Comment):

    I’ve noticed this too, Doc B. Especially if you’ve offered a really good, rational argument that contradicts what they’d previously been so completely sure of.

    Abruptly…they switch!

    Amen. This is nothing more than leftymentia. ie – Change the subject abruptly when it’s obvious the other person knows what they’re talking about and it exposes your argument for the lunacy that it is.

    I think “progressive dementia” is a real diagnosis.  :)

    • #30