Many errors can occur when attempting to retrieve a specific episode. First, the retrieval cues used to initiate the search for a specific episode may be too similar to other experiential memories and the retrieval process may fail if the individual is unable to form a specific description of the unique characteristics of the given memory they would like to retrieve. When there is little available distinctive information for a given episode there will be more overlap across multiple episodes, leading the individual to recall only the general similarities common to these memories. Ultimately proper recall for a desired target memory fails due to the interference of non-target memories that are activated because of their similarity.
Secondly, a large number of errors that occur during memory reconstruction are caused by faults in the criterion-setting and decision making processes used to direct attention towards retrieving a specific target memory. When there are lapses in recall of aspects of an episodic memory, the individual tends to supplement other aspects of knowledge that are unrelated to the actual episode in order to form a more cohesive and well-rounded reconstruction of the memory, regardless of whether or not the individual is aware of such supplemental processing. This process is known as confabulation. All of the supplemental processes occurring during the course of reconstruction rely on the use of schema, information networks that organize and store abstract knowledge in the brain.