by Bo Cochran
The phenomenon known as “The Mandela Effect” has recently taken the internet by storm. The phenomenon was named after Nelson Mandela, due to the widespread misconception that the former South African president died in the 1980s, while incarcerated in prison, in reality he was liberated and passed away in 2013, not incarcerated. Given this fact, thousands of unrelated people recall Mandela dying in incarceration, and even recount news coverage and watching an emotional speech by his widow. This is just a specific example of the effect, and there are many instances of this effect. Many people believe these misconceptions come from having alternate realities, or memories from a parallel universes. Which means the events or memories that these people believed to be true, were true, until they slipped into another reality, where those events did not occur. This belief explains why many people have misconceptions, but regardless of what reality tells them, they believe their memory to be fact.
There is not a lot of evidence that can be found to support this belief, but proponents of this belief argue that false memory, alone, cannot argue for the sheer number of unrelated people who have these misconceptions. Evidence against this argument are also hard to come by, because the belief is unfalsifiable, due to the fact we don’t even have evidence that parallel universes exist, and even if we did know, we have nothing to measure these drifts from universe to universe. Most research that has been done on this belief conclude that memory can be very unreliable, and there are many limits to human memory.
Many researchers believe this effect is due to the misinformation effect. Kendra Cherry (2017) says “The misinformation effect refers to the tendency for post-event information to interfere with the memory of the original event. Researchers have shown that the introduction of even relatively subtle information following an event can have a dramatic effect on how people remember.” Inaccurate eyewitnesses are a prime example of this effect. The human brain can falsify memories so well, people believe these memories to be true. Other explanations for the Mandela Effect can be due to priming, hypnosis, and misinterpretation when the stimulus was first introduced.
The reason this belief is still very popular, even though there is not much research that supports it, is due to the fact the internet is a powerful tool for spreading information. The information can be false, true, proven, not prove; it does not matter, someone else will read these posts. Many people will read these posts, and find that someone else has stumbled on the same misconception as they have, whether it be misinterpreting Mandela’s death, the Ford logo, or the title of the “The Berenstain Bears”, once people create a community based on believing these misconceptions to be true, then their misinformation starts to seem factual. There are also many convincing videos created to support these beliefs, and the fact the Mandela Effect is hard to disprove, also makes believers stand by this belief.
In conclusion, the fact that a group of people conjure up the same false memories really should not cause confusion. We live in an interconnected world where two totally unrelated people may share the exact same experience, even though they have no knowledge of one another, and unless you believe human memory to be free of error, some of these experiences will eventually result into false memories. Also, since these memories do not have to be one singular event and can occur over days, months, and years, it is very difficult to trace the origin of the memory. So, figuring out when, why, and by what influenced your memory seems impossible to pinpoint.
Broome, Fiona. “Alternate Realities.” Mandela Effect, WordPress, 2009, mandelaeffect.com/.
Cherry, Kendra. “The Misinformation Effect and False Memories.” Verywellmind, 28 Sept. 2017, www.verywellmind.com/what-is-the-misinformation-effect-2795353.