When Memories Are False: The Mandela Effect

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We use our memories for almost everything in our daily lives. So what happens when our memories don’t match reality?

In a recent study, about 3 in 4 adults failed to recall information accurately. And while it’s one thing to forget factual information from a news article, the reach of false memories goes further than that.

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Another study suggests that 30% of people could be convinced they have experienced a false autobiographical event. Events you remember about your own life may not be real.

Even if individual people mix matters up, the group can correct them… sometimes. It is also possible for collective false memories to form and spread.

Coined in 2009 by the paranormal expert Fiona Broome, The Mandela Effect originally described the phenomenon in which large groups of people believed South African revolutionary Nelson Mandela had died in 1980 when in reality, the man lived until 2013.

Broome started a website to discuss the effect in greater detail; today, the Mandela Effect is an umbrella term for any time a large group of people misremembers a specific event.

Today, examples of the Mandela Effect abound in popular culture. Song lyrics are a common target.

Many people are convinced Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood has the line “it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.” In reality, the correct line is “this neighborhood.” It’s a minor difference that could be chalked up to poor hearing.

Another example is the Berenstain Bears. Plenty of people still think the author’s name is spelled “Berenstein.” While all of these examples are innocent, they carry disturbing implications.

What Causes The Mandela Effect To Form And Spread?

Given the spread of internet access and deepfake technology around the globe, some wonder if instances of the Mandela Effect are growing in frequency. Misinformation can travel around the world before the truth is ever shared.

Some theorize it to be evidence of multiple parallel universes. Others fear it reveals a government conspiracy to rewrite history.

Psychologists are skeptical of both explanations. Instead, they think the Mandela Effect is a collection of related psychological phenomena.

There are any number of reasons a person may form a false memory. Then, when they go to describe what they “remember” to another person, the group may accept that false memory out of a desire for consensus. Humans are social, conforming creatures.

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Infographic source: Online-Psychology-Degrees.org