TL;DR Science: The Mandela Effect
By Srishti S.
February 03, 2023 · 2 minute read
The human mind is an interesting thing on its own, but when you put millions of human minds together, the result is incredibly surprising. The Mandela Effect is a phenomenon that was discovered relatively recently but continues to make waves with its mystery.
Where did it come from?
Well, the Mandela Effect was first given a name by Fiona Broome in 2009. She vividly remembered prominent activist Nelson Mandela dying in a South African prison sometime in the 1980s, recalling that the event was broadcasted all over television at the time; however, Mandela only died in 2013. She discussed her confusion with people at a conference, and to her surprise, many others claimed to remember the exact same thing even though it was far from the truth! Interesting, right?
What is the Mandela Effect?
The Mandela Effect is the general name given to what is called a “false collective memory”; in other words, it is when large numbers of people mysteriously remember or believe the same incorrect piece of information.
Where else can you see the Mandela Effect?
Nelson Mandela’s death isn’t the only instance of the Mandela Effect; there are numerous examples of people all remembering the same thing despite it not having any ounce of truth to it.
1. Many people seem to recall that Mickey Mouse wears red suspenders (left), but this is not the case! His actual outfit is pictured on the right.
2. People also seem to remember the popular Pokemon character Pikachu as having a black tail (left), when in fact, his tail is fully yellow (right).
3. The infamous Monopoly man does NOT wear a monocle! He does not wear anything on his eyes, as seen in the rightmost image.
- All of us remember the Evil Queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs asking, “Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all,” right? She actually said, “Magic mirror on the wall,” contrary to popular belief.
- We’ve all heard Darth Vader say the famous line, “Luke, I am your father”... or have we? Actually, the original line was “No, I am your father.” Then why do we all remember the same wrong quote?
The Science Behind the Mandela Effect:
There are many schools of thought that come together to form the likely basis for the Mandela Effect.
False Memories - These occur when people seem to remember things that aren’t true due to special associations in their brains. For example, if somebody told you they saw something, you are more likely to remember the same and go along with their statement even if you did not actually see it. The following concepts are all ways that people’s brains can establish false memories.
- Priming - Priming is a play on words to create a false memory in the mind of the listener; using specific, related terms to ask questions can cause a person to remember things that are not true. It could also include outside factors like sound to influence one’s behavior. For example, asking whether somebody saw a specific phone on the table can lead them to THINK they remember seeing it, even if they did not.
- Confabulation - This is a term for subconsciously fabricating details or information to fill in any gaps in your understanding of an event. In no way does this mean a person is purposely lying; they genuinely believe what they say, in part due to false memories. Confabulation is especially common among the elderly and people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
- Alternate Reality - Perhaps the most far-fetched of the three, many people share a belief that an alternate universe exists. This would explain why different groups of people have the same memories among themselves. It seems silly, but there is no evidence to prove that alternate realities do not exist, so it is very much a possibility for many theorists.
The Mandela Effect is a mystery of science that continues to remain largely unsolved. However, the psychology of group consciousness and memory is an incredibly interesting topic for further study. The day of Mandela’s death may be concrete, but the human mind is constantly evolving and arranging itself; at times, you’ll never know if your brain is telling you the truth!
Here is a great video about the Mandela Effect if you want to learn more!
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About The Author
Srishti Swaminathan is a high school sophomore interested in STEM and writing. She enjoys reading, listening to music, and watching movies. If you have any comments or questions regarding this article, feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.