What is the Mandela effect? Did you ever get Mandela-ed?

Nobody is perfect and neither is their memory, according to a study published in the journal ‘Psychological Science’ in 2020: 76 percent of individuals made at least one noticeable error when asked to recollect facts. Despite the fact that the study’s participants’ recall accuracy was ‘extremely high’, with ‘93-95 percent of all verifiable data’ being true, the research shows that memory is not perfect.

Things that never happened or events that have been muddled over time might become real in one’s mind, causing information to become skewed or confused. The ‘Mandela effect’ is built on this foundation: it occurs when a large number of individuals believe something happened when it actually did not. These people are sure that they remember a specific episode or experience, even though it is patently false. The name alludes to a widespread false memory in which a large number of people claim to remember Nelson Mandela dying in jail in the 1980s. Nelson Mandela, in fact, died in his house in 2013. Fiona Broome, a self-described ‘paranormal consultant’, coined the term after learning that other people had experienced Mandela’s death while confined.

The Mandela effect is now a term used to describe a widespread false memory that, while incorrect, has taken on a life of its own in the minds of many people.

These memories are usually based on popular culture. Two of the more well-known examples are individuals misremembering the color of a snack packet or thinking the cartoon ‘Looney Tunes’ was called ‘Looney Toons’. So, what causes this? Why is it possible for people who have never met to have the same misunderstanding?

‘The Mandela effect appears to be linked to a variety of well-known memory events’, said Tim Hollins, an experimental psychology professor at the University of Plymouth in the United Kingdom. According to Hollins: ‘False memory’ is the creation of a memory that never happened; ‘source-memory errors’ happen when someone forgets the true source of a memory; and ‘imagination inflation’ is the tendency to believe something is real more often, or more vividly, it is imagined.

He also identifies the following features: ‘Asch conformity’, in which people conform to a view to fit in with a group, and the ‘misinformation effect’, which outlines a tendency for people’s recollections to change based on subsequent learnings or experiences. 

These are instances of how faulty our memories may be, Hollins states. The phenomenon that most closely resembles the Mandela effect, according to Hollins, is ‘gist memory’, which occurs when someone has a basic understanding of something but can’t recall the details.

The lack of a tail in ‘Curious George’, a children’s book character who initially appeared in the 1940s, is a common illustration of the Mandela effect. ‘Remembering Curious George as having a tail simply reflects the fact that most monkeys do’, Hollins explained. ‘Why wouldn’t you recall him having a tail if you just remember the gist — it’s a monkey?’

People prefer to believe their faulty memory is evidence of parallel universes, according to Hollins, in order to ‘explain’ how they may believe they have a good recall despite being confronted with evidence to the contrary.

Is it possible that the Mandela effect could be a proof of parallel universes?

‘No. It’s a load of crap’ came Hollins to a conclusion.

Source of illustration: Good Housekeeping

Written by: M. Faiq Saeed