Film producer Robert Evans famously said, “There are three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the truth.” Evans had it right in some respects, as people can mistakenly create false or pseudomemories. This is the case for the Mandela effect.
The Mandela effect occurs when a large group of people believe an event occurred when it did not.
There are many examples of the Mandela effect in popular culture. This article will explore why and how these false memories occur.
The Mandela effect got its name when Fiona Broome, a self-identified “paranormal consultant,” detailed how she remembered former South African President Nelson Mandela dying in the 1980s in prison (although Mandela lived until 2013).
Broome could describe remembering news coverage of his death and even a speech from his widow about his death. Yet none of it happened.
If Broome’s thoughts occurred in isolation, that would be one factor. However, Broome found that other people thought the exact same as her.
Even though the event never happened, she wasn’t the only one who felt like it did. As a result, the Mandela effect concept was “born.”
Collective false memories
Another way to describe the Mandela effect is “collective false memories.” A large group of people collectively always say a particular saying or memory a certain way when, in reality, the truth is different from the memory.
Conspiracy theorists believe the Mandela effect is an example of alternate universes present in society. However, doctors have a much different explanation of memory, and how some memories, although vivid, can be false.
Some doctors believe the Mandela effect is a form of confabulation.
A common analogy for confabulation is “honest lying.” A person creates a false memory without intending to lie or deceive others. Instead, they’re attempting to fill in gaps in their own memory.
Many examples of the Mandela effect are close to the original or true memory. Some researchers believe that people — even a large group of people — use confabulation to “remember” what they feel is the most likely sequence of events.
Other aspects of memory may lead to the Mandela effect. This includes false memories, where your recall of an event isn’t an accurate depiction.
This is often a struggle for eyewitnesses to a crime or important cultural event. Also, the abilities of people across the internet to alter images, logos, and sayings may affect your recall of the original item.
There are many sites dedicated to people chronicling examples of the Mandela effect, including Reddit.
Often, people are disturbed to find out how they, and a lot of other people, remember an event isn’t exactly the way they remembered it. Here are some examples:
The Berenstein Bears vs. The Berenstain Bears
Many people remember the “Berenstein Bears” as a lovable bear family. But this isn’t actually their name. They’re the “Berenstain Bears.”
Jif vs. Jiffy logo
Jif is a popular brand of peanut butter, but many people remember the brand’s label a little differently — specifically as Jiffy.
Looney Tunes vs. Looney Toons logo
Many people think the logo for the Warner Brothers’ cartoons was spelled “Looney Toons.” Actually, it’s “Looney Tunes.”
‘I am your father.’
Many people who quote this famous line in “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” say, “Luke, I am your father.” However, Darth Vader actually says, “I am your father.” There is no “Luke” at all.
There are hundreds to thousands of examples of the Mandela effect across entertainment, logos, and even geography. Reading these examples can make you question your memory.
Symptoms of the Mandela effect include:
- remembering something as slightly different in wording or appearance as it originally was
- a large number of people recounting the same way of remembering
One way to think of the Mandela effect on your memory is to consider the way you recall information like the childhood game of telephone.
During this game, an initial statement is spoken and whispered to one person, then the next and the next until the message is delivered to the final person.
Usually, in telephone, the final message would be slightly different because people heard or remembered it slightly differently. This is true for your memory.
You may “pull” a memory from your brain, but time and infrequent recall can cause you to put the memory back together in a slightly different way.
We won’t lie — it’s really difficult to recognize a false memory. Usually the only way to know your memory is false or real is to corroborate your story with other people or research.
If you remember a saying a certain way, you can look it up from a reliable site or sites, or attempt to confirm it with others.
One of the problems with corroborating a story with others is that people tend to confirm what another person believes to be true.
Asking a person, “Didn’t Nelson Mandela die in prison?” or “Nelson Mandela died in prison, right?” is a leading question that increases the likelihood a person will answer yes.
A better question may be, “How did Nelson Mandela die?”
Fortunately, when it comes to the Mandela effect, most false memories seem to be harmless. Replacing an “a” in Berenstein with an “e” usually only harms your pride in remembering small details.
The Mandela effect is an unusual phenomenon where a large group of people remember something differently than how it occurred.
Conspiracy theorists believe this is proof of an alternate universe, while many doctors use it as an illustration of how imperfect memory can be sometimes.