What is Confabulation?

Confabulation is when we make decisions intuitively and nonconsciously, and rationalize the decisions after the fact. To complicate things, the rationalization may not be the real reason the decision was made, making this a difficult Bias to identify. The Confabulation Bias is not to be confused with the psychiatric term confabulation that is cited as an illness in which one creates false memories without the intent to deceive others.

Confabulation Bias is not an illness, rather a way the mind justifies its decisions. False memories are not created, but false motives might be.

Example: Let’s say your son wants to attend the University of Iowa. *If you don’t have a son, use your imagination. You’re on an innovation company’s website after all!* When you ask him why he wishes to go to college in Iowa, he claims it’s because of their top tier academic program and that he really likes the layout of the campus. However, you know that his real incentive is his girlfriend who is also attending the University of Iowa. Your son is Confabulating his decision by generating rationalizations other than his real motive: love. Awwww.

Need a one-page guide to the eight Cognitive Biases that block innovation efforts? Download our Cognitive Bias cheat sheet.

Download the Cognitive  Bias Cheat-Sheet

Overcoming Confabulation During Innovation

Confabulation happens more than we realize, especially when it comes to product positioning. It is easy to say that we like a product, but it's more difficult to pinpoint exactly why. A great tool for uncovering the benefits of a product is the "So What?" Wheel. It starts off like a basic mind map:

so what wheel.png

In the center circle, write down your product or idea. In the surrounding circles, fill in the benefits that the product provides. Benefits range from physical to emotional, so be sure to be as specific as possible. Now it’s time for the “So What?” component. If one of your benefits is, “It makes me happy,” so what? What does happiness give you? Happiness might give you the peace of mind to enjoy the rest of your day or it might put a smile on your face. Okay, now there’s a smile on your face, so what? “I get admiration from peers when I smile.” As you can see, each benefit builds off the previous one. The "So What?" Wheel can continue for as long as you’d like, but the further out you go, the more you will uncover about the benefits of a product.

The "So What?" Wheel forces you to think deeply about a product's assets, and keeps you away from Confabulation that leads to simple answers like, “It makes me happy.” Use this tool to uncover the perfect benefits of a product.

For a complete reference to the Cognitive Biases that interfere with innovation, read Outsmart Your Instincts: How the Behavioral InnovationTMApproach Drives Your Company Forward.

What Cognitive Bias Are You?

Take the eight-question quiz to uncover the Cognitive Bias most affecting your ability to innovate. Don't worry, we also provide you with ways to battle each Bias. 

Tyler Thompson

Tyler Thompson is a Creative Process Designer and Facilitator at Ideas To Go, an innovation agency that works with Fortune 500 companies in ideation and concept development to incorporate the voice of the consumer.