The Mandela Effect: Misremembered Events and False Memories


Let’s do an experiment. I want you to think about Pikachu, specifically in its tail. Do you remember that black stripe in the end ended in peaks? Maybe you are inspired by the image you have above these lines, but I myself would have sworn and perjured that this is the classic design of the mythical Pokémon even though it is not true. It is another case of what is known as Mandela Effect.

As our colleagues from Xataka, reported, the idea behind the Mandela Effect comes from the case of a blogger, Fiona Broome, who recalled in one of her entries how she had seen the news on television about how he died in prison, his subsequent funeral, the riots in the streets caused by the event, and even his widow’s moving speech. The reality was that he was alive.

In fact, he did not die until three years after that entry was written. Mandela had remained in prison for 27 years, yes, but after that he came out and even became president of South Africa. However, both Broome and a large number of people he had met at a convention claimed to have experienced those images on television, but no one has been able to find them.

Memories that never existed

After creating a page called MandelaEffect, people began to share similar cases in which they believed for certain that something was or had happened in a certain way even though it never was that way. In fact, the mere explanation of it, without any intention of generating confusion, makes some people’s brains short-circuit. Let’s go with several examples:

– C3PO wasn’t completely golden. He had a silver leg.
– In Casablanca it was never said, “Play it again, Sam,” it was just “Play it, Sam.”
– The KitKat logo never had a dash in the middle.
– Rodin’s thinker does not rest his head on his fist, but on his fingers.
– The witch in Snow White didn’t say “mirror, mirror,” she called it “magic mirror.”
– The original name of Sex and the City wasn’t Sex in the City, it was Sex and the City.
– The Fruit of the Loom logo does not have a basket behind the fruit.
– Darth Vader said: “No, I am your father” but many of us remember the phrase “Luke, I am your father.”
– The Monopoly doll does not have a monocle.
– Pikachu didn’t have any black spots on the tip of his tail.

If you have identified with any of those erroneous examples, you can rest easy. It is actually a much more common brain error than it might seem. And you should not stick to commercial brands or movie scenes in which your memory could have played tricks on you; it is also a failure that directly affects your most personal memories.

Why does the Mandela Effect occur?

Although science has not found the exact cause, it seems to boil down to the fact that we trust our memory more than we should. According to neuroscience, the memory storage process creates its own stores of ordered information that it turns to when needed. When that moment arrives, the connection between neurons can contaminate a memory due to what is stored around it.

An example to make it even clearer. I vividly remember being on vacation in my father’s town bathing in a river, however my parents claim that I was very young when we were there and it is impossible for me to remember it. My memory, in some way, has united the memory of a vacation in the town with a family photo in which I appear in that river. By trying to remember the moment, you have simply filled in the gaps necessary to complete that task.

This phenomenon is known as collusion but it is not the only one that we must take into account in these cases. There is another very similar one, this time with imaginations or dreams instead of real evidence like the one in the photo, known as cryptomnesia. They are simple flaws in our memory, and the way we store memories in the brain, that can play tricks on us.

Why do many people make the same mistake when remembering something? Why, along with Fiona Broome, were there more people who remembered witnessing Nelson Mandela’s funeral before it happened? The truth is that it is no coincidence that the Mandela Effect has exploded in the midst of the information age and the Internet.

If the information is repeated actively and passively despite being false, our memory of it generates enough confidence to accept that information as good. The same thing happens if the information came from a reliable source, such as family or friends, and over time it has settled in your brain, especially if many years have passed since you thought you saw or heard something that in reality did not happen exactly that way.

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