The Influence of Confabulations about the Reasons for the Choice on the Formation of False Memories



The article examines the causes of the choice blindness aftereffect on the formation of false memories. Several studies have shown that when individuals provide reasons for a choice they did not actually make, their memories shift towards the invented justifications (confabulations). The aim of this study is to contrast the explanation of the mnemonic aftereffect of choice blindness in terms of cognitive dissonance theory with explanations in terms of recency and verbalization effects. In the experiment, we compared two situations: one where participants justified evaluations contradicting their initial opinions, and another where they justified evaluations but attributed them to their partners’ opinions. It was hypothesized that if self-justification induces cognitive dissonance, participants who confabulated reasons for choices believed to be their own would exhibit more false memories regarding the original choice compared to those who believed they justified their partner’s opinion. The first stage involved participants evaluating the IQ of women based on their photos. In the second stage they had to explain the reasons for the evaluations (either considering it their own choice or partner’s). Half of the evaluations submitted for explanations contradicted the previously issued ones (low evaluations changed to high ones and vice versa). In the third stage, the participants had to remember the original evaluation. A change in the pole of perceived IQ judgments was measured. The results confirmed the presence of the choice blindness effect. The effect of false memories was found only in the group that considered the presented evaluations to be their own opinions.

General Information

Keywords: choice blindness, confabulations, misinformation, false memories, cognitive dissonance, recency effect, verbalization

Journal rubric: Empirical and Experimental Research

Article type: scientific article


Funding. The study was supported by the Russian Science Foundation, project no. 21-18-00429 “Cognitive mechanisms of multimodal information processing: text type & type of recipient”.

Received: 07.05.2023


For citation: Gershkovich V.A., Tikhonov R.V., Bystrova E.E., Lvova O.V. The Influence of Confabulations about the Reasons for the Choice on the Formation of False Memories. Vestnik of Saint Petersburg University. Psychology, 2023. Vol. 13, no. 4, pp. 566–585. DOI: 10.21638/spbu16.2023.409. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


Bortolotti, L. (2018). Stranger than fiction: Costs and benefits of everyday confabulation. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 9 (2), 227–249.

Brown, C., Lloyd-Jones, T. J. (2005). Verbal facilitation of face recognition. Memory & Cognition, 33, 1442–1456.

Chater, N., Johansson, P., Hall, L. (2011). The nonexistence of risk attitude. Frontiers in Psychology, 2, 303.

Chrobak, Q. M., Zaragoza, M. S. (2008). Inventing stories: Forcing witnesses to fabricate entire fictitious events leads to freely reported false memories. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 15 (6), 1190–1195.

Cochran, K. J., Greenspan, R. L., Bogart, D. F., Loftus, E. F. (2016). Memory blindness: Altered memory reports lead to distortion in eyewitness memory. Memory and Cognition, 44, 717–726.

Ecker, U. K. H., Lewandowsky, S., Cheung, C. S. C., Maybery, M. T. (2015). He did it! She did it! No, she did not! Multiple causal explanations and the continued influence of misinformation. Journal of Memory and Language, 85, 101–115.

Festinger, L. (1999). A theory of cognitive dissonance. St. Petersburg, Iuventa Publ. (In Russian)

Gershkovich, V. A. (2006). False memories as a result of cognitive dissonance reduction. In: Kognitivnye issledovaniia: sbornik nauchnykh trudov (pp. 163–176). Moscow, Institute of Psychology. (In Russian)

Gershkovich, V. A. (2015). The influence of disinformation on memory of a made choice. Vestnik Rossiyskogo gumanitarnogo nauchnogo fonda, 2 (79), 208–217. (In Russian)

Gershkovich, V. A., Gaponenko, A. V. (2015). Talking about what we don’t know: manifestation of choice blindness when filling out the 16-factor questionnaire by R. Cattell. Vestnik Iaroslavskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta im. P. G. Demidova. Ser. Gumanitarnye nauki, 1 (31), 76–84. (In Russian)

Gershkovich, V. A., Tikhonov, R. V., Vasilieva, A. S., Lvova, O. V. (2022). How others change our memories: the effect of exposure to anonymous opinions. The Russian Journal of Cognitive Science, 9 (1–2), 44–52.

Hall L., Johansson P., Strandberg T. (2012). Lifting the veil of morality: Choice blindness and attitude reversals on a self-transforming survey. PLoS ONE, 7 (9), e45457.

Hall L., Strandberg T., Pärnamets P., Lind A., Tärning B., Johansson P. (2013). How the polls can be both spot on and dead wrong: using choice blindness to shift political attitudes and voter intentions. PLoS ONE, 8 (4), e60554.

Johansson P., Hall L., Sikström S., Olsson A. (2005). Failure to detect mismatches between intention and outcome in a simple decision task. Science, 310 (5745), 116–119.

Johansson, P., Hall, L., Sikström, S., Tärning, B., Lind, A. (2006). How something can be said about telling more than we can know: On choice blindness and introspection. Consciousness and Cognition, 15 (4), 673–699.

Johansson, P., Hall, L., Sikström S. (2008). From change blindness to choice blindness. Psychologia, 51 (2), 142–155. 2008.142

Johansson, P., Hall, L., Tärning, B., Sikström, S., Chater, N. (2013). Choice blindness and preference change: You will like this paper better if you (believe you) chose to read it! Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 27, 281–289.

Lee, A. J., Hibbs, C., Wright, M. J., Martin, N. G., Keller, M. C., Zietsch, B. P. (2017). Assessing the accuracy of perceptions of intelligence based on heritable facial features. Intelligence, 64, 1–8.

Loftus, E. F., Hoffman, H. G. (1989). Misinformation and memory: The creation of new memories. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 118 (1), 100–104.

Meissner, C. A., Brigham, J. C., Kelley, C. M. (2001). The influence of retrieval processes in verbal overshadowing. Memory & Cognition, 2001, 29, 176–186.

Moroshkina, N. V. (2023). Verbal overshadowing. In: Bol’shaia rossiiskaia entsiklopediia: nauchno-obrazovatel’nyi portal. Available at: (accessed: 28.04.2023). (In Russian)

Moroshkina, N. V., Ivanchei, I. I., Tikhonov, R. V., Karpov, A. D., Ovchinnikova, I. V. (2018). Development and validation of the “Russian database of neutral and smiling female faces” (“RuNeS Faces”). Eksperimental’naia psikhologiia, 11 (2), 34–49. (In Russian)

Nisbett, R. E., Wilson, T. D. (1977). Telling more than we can know: Verbal reports on mental processes. Psychological Review, 84 (3), 231–259. 84.3.231

Otgaar, H., Baker, A. (2018). When lying changes memory for the truth. Memory, 26 (1), 2–14.

Pärnamets, P., Hall, L., Johansson, P. (2015). Memory distortions resulting from a choice blindness task. In: D. C. Noelle, R. Dale, A. S. Warlaumont, J. Yoshimi, T. Matlock, C. D. Jennings, P. P. Maglio (eds). Proceedings of the 37th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 1823–1828). Austin, Cognitive Science Society.

Peirce, J. W., Gray, J. R., Simpson, S., MacAskill, M. R., Höchenberger, R., Sogo, H., Kastman, E., Lindeløv, J. (2019). PsychoPy: Experiments in behavior made easy. Behavior Research Methods, 51 (1), 195–203.

Polage, D. (2017). The effect of telling lies on belief in the truth. Europe’s journal of psychology, 13 (4), 633–644.

Razorilova, P. V. (2017). The influence of disinformation on memory of a decision: Master’s thesis (Psychology). St. Petersburg. (In Russian)

Rodriguez, D. N., Strange, D. (2005). False memories for dissonance inducing events. Memory, 23 (2), 203–212.

Sagana, A., Sauerland, M., Merckelbach, H. (2013). Witnesses’ blindness for their own facial recognition decisions: A field study. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 31 (5), 624–636.

Sagana, A., Sauerland, M., Merckelbach, H. (2014). “This is the person you selected”: Eyewitnesses’ blindness for their own facial recognition decisions. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 28 (5), 753–764.

Sagana, A., Sauerland, M., Merckelbach, H. (2014). Memory impairment is not sufficient for choice blindness to occur. Frontiers in Psychology, 20 (5), 449.

Schooler, J. W., Gerhard, D., Loftus, E. F. (1986). Qualities of the unreal. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 12 (2), 171–181.

Schooler, J. W., Engstler-Schooler, T. Y. (1990). Verbal overshadowing of visual memories: Some things are better left unsaid. Cognitive Psychology, 22 (1), 36–71.

Stille, L., Norin, E., Sikström, S. (2017). Self-delivered misinformation — Merging the choice blindness and misinformation effect paradigms. PLoS ONE, 12 (3), e0173606.

Strandberg, T., Sivén, D., Hall, L., Johansson, P., Pärnamets, P. (2018). False beliefs and confabulation can lead to lasting changes in political attitudes. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 147 (9), 1382 – 1399.

White, P. A. (1987). Causal report accuracy: retrospect and prospect. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 23 (4), 311–315.

Wilson, T. D., Dunn, D. S., Kraft, D., Lisle, D. J. (1989). Introspection, attitude change, and attitude-behavior consistency: The disruptive effects of explaining why we feel the way we do. In: L. Berkowitz (ed.). Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (vol. 22, pp. 287–343). Orlando, Academic Press.

Information About the Authors

Valeria A. Gershkovich, PhD in Psychology, Assistant, General Psychology Chair, Department of Psychology, Saint-Petersburg State University, St.Petersburg, Russia, e-mail:

Roman V. Tikhonov, PhD in Psychology, Junior Researcher, Laboratory for Cognitive Studies, Saint Petersburg State University, Junior Researcher, Laboratory of Sociology in Education and Science, HSE University — Saint Petersburg, St.Petersburg, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Ekaterina E. Bystrova, Saint-Petersburg State University, St.Petersburg, Russia, e-mail:

Olga V. Lvova, posrgraduate student, St. Petersburg State University, St.Petersburg, Russia, e-mail:



Total: 24
Previous month: 0
Current month: 24


Total: 3
Previous month: 0
Current month: 3