Verbal Reports and "Real' Reasons": Confabulation and Conflation

Constantine Sandis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
64 Downloads (Pure)


This paper examines the relation between the various forces which underlie human action and verbal reports about our reasons for acting as we did. I maintain that much of the psychological literature on confabulations rests on a dangerous conflation of the reasons for which people act with a variety of distinct motivational factors. In particular, I argue that subjects frequently give correct answers to questions about the considerations they acted upon while remaining largely unaware of why they take themselves to have such reasons to act. Pari passu, experimental psychologists are wrong to maintain that they have shown our everyday reason talk to be systematically confused. This is significant because our everyday reason-ascriptions affect characterizations of action (in terms of intention, knowledge, foresight, etc.) that are morally and legally relevant. I conclude, more positively, that far from rendering empirical research on confabulations invalid, my account helps to reveal its true insights into human nature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-280
Number of pages14
JournalEthical Theory and Moral Practice
Issue number2
Early online date18 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015


  • reasons
  • confabulation
  • verbal reports
  • action explanation
  • motivation
  • experimental psychology


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