The Mandela Effect

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.

Sources

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.

 

16 thoughts on “The Mandela Effect

  1. I liked how you explained the misinformation effect and how this clearly proves that the Mandela Effect is indeed false. I also liked how you discussed that the following and support of the Mandela Effect comes from the increase of social media growth and how the information spreads quickly when its available on the internet.

  2. I enjoyed reading this post because this is a belief i know little about. I am not surprised that people believe this or that they think he was gone a long time ago. However, there is clear evidence against this belief. I agree that this is likely due to the misinformation effect. This is a unique belief and I found your blog post very informative.

  3. I really loved this topic and i loved reading your post!! The mandela effect is something I find so interesting. I used to read about it all the time until my brain started to hurt! Some of my favorite ones are how it now says in Snow White “Magic mirror on the wall” when we all remember it is mirror mirror on the wall, the berestain bears, and then also in forest gump we remember his famous quote as “life is like a box of chocolate” however i just recently watched it and he says “life was like a box of chocolate”. It is fun to think we live in a parallel universe and that is why the mandela effect is happening, however it makes way more sense to understand the misinformation effect and also how our memory plays a role in this!

  4. I feel like the Mandela Effect is definitely picking up popularity recently. You are definitely right in the fact that the internet is a powerful tool in spreading information about this effect, regardless if it’s true or not. Also, if someone is a true believer in something, their beliefs are only reaffirmed by seeing an internet community subscribe to the same beliefs.

  5. I used to be obsessed with the Mandela Effect when it first came out because it seemed like everyone I knew was talking about it and every day there was a new effect to read about or see. I stopped caring about the Mandela Effect after everyone started fighting about how Chickfila was originally spelled. Chickfila even issued a statement about it. It is interesting to see how so many people can feel like they had the same exact memory of a phrase or cartoon.

    • I had no idea that the Mandela Effect was so popular that Chick-Fil-A made a statement about it! It’s a little crazy that this theory has blown up to that extent. Some Mandela Effects are really convincing whereas others it’s very obvious that people are just misremembering information. It is funny how many people do have the same memory of certain events in the past especially if the memory isn’t right.

  6. My friends and I also talk about this! It just seems so interesting about the details people claim to remember and I feel like I definitely could fall victim to it. I think there’s also a little confirmation bias behind it, even when people are presented with evidence against a certain theory in the Mandela Effect, they will continue to argue about it. People always wanna be right.

    • Hey Paige,
      I liked how you said that people always want to be right! That is a great point, do you believe that we can misinterpret information and then recall it differently? There have been big cases of this in court and for example police officers remembering things wrong.
      Charlie

  7. I find the Mandela Effect to be one of the most interesting theories, because it’s crazy that so many of us have these false memories about things that were so common like the spelling of “Chick fil a” isn’t “chik fil a” like many people think it is. I always found the explanation for this phenomenon to be a little out there with the idea that we switched realities and went into a parallel universe which completely defies Occam’s Razor that the most simple explanation is usually the correct one. I think with things like the Berenstain bears, people think it is really berenstein because it is more common for last names to end with -stein than -stain.

  8. Hey Bo,
    Being a psych major and never learning about this I found it really interesting. I hate to say it, but I think it can be true, but not in a super strong sense. The effect is basically remembering something wrong, which is possible in the human brain.
    Charlie

  9. So I fear I may be suffering from a Mandela Effect, I would have sworn that this conspiracy was known as the Matrix effect. You know, because slight changes around us are perceived but not recognized by all, much like in the movie The Matrix? While I’m sure this effect is usually due to memory failure, I must say I have witnessed it in my personal life. When I was a child, I would swear that some months had 32 days, because if it wasn’t February, then by rule the month had 30, 31, or 32 days. While most people will say I am crazy, I swear I can recall even writing 32 in the dates on papers. Why did I think this was called the Matrix effect?

    • hey Mike! i dont know why but this post really made me laugh! but i agree that the mandela effect or matrix effect, whichever we are calling it can definitely be due to some attribution of memory failure or perhaps maybe we sometimes psych our selves out by thinking something is one way because we think that is how it is SUPPOSED to be. like for example when i was a kid i remember it being the berestein bears however not it is the berestain bears. it could be i thought it was EIN because that what i thought it was supposed to sound like.

  10. This was interesting and not what I had expected it to be about when first reading the title. I feel like part of this could also be due to the fact that people’s memories do in fact weaken, fade, and even change over time. So, when people start to hear about something in the past that’s incorrect, but close to true, they could fall victim to remembering those details incorrectly.

  11. This is something I had not learned about before, so it was really interesting to read about in this post. I am surprised I had never learned about it in any of my psychology classes seeing that this belief plays a lot into how your mind works. I can understand why people may believe in these things based on the different cognitive effects I have learned about so far.

  12. Bo, I really enjoyed reading the topic of your blog! I had no idea that people believed these misconceptions coming from having alternate realities or memories from a parallel universe. The part about them slipping into another reality was very interesting. I think it is very easy to create something outside of reality, especially in today’s society, which I think is why this could still be so popular today. Great post!

  13. Does anyone remember when the spelling of dilemma changed to dilemna and back to dilemma in a two week period back in 2015 or 2016? During the exact same time frame the quote in Apollo 13 went from “Houston we have a problem” to “Houston we had a problem” and back again. There was at least a dozen videos for each of these on YouTube. When dilemma changed to dilemna I checked my American Heritage dictionary and it was spelled dilemna. When it changed back I looked in the same exact dictionary and it was then spelled dilemma again. This one is not a case of bad memory as others also checked their dictionaries. It is either a case of reality changing or me having a two week hallucination. Take your pick, lol.

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