Have you ever felt like your mind was playing tricks on you? That you may not be remembering something the way it really was? You’re not crazy, you’ve just had a taste of the Mandela Effect.
Nelson Mandela, activist, political leader, and former president of South Africa. He was arrested and spent 27 years in prison in the 1980’s, as the swell of support for his cause grew across the world. After his release, he was president of South Africa from 1990 to 1994. He died in 2013, a hero to many. Or did he die in prison in the 1980’s? Many people distinctly remember this being the case. Of course, it’s easy to misremember dates and events, but when misremembering happens on a massive scale, it is called the Mandela effect.
I feel like this needs a bit more explanation. The Mandela effect is a phenomenon of collective misremembering that sees people recalling events and details differently than they really were. What makes the Mandela effect interesting is that it affects hundreds or even thousands of people who all recall similar details or lack thereof. These misrememberings can range from details as simple as the order of the colors on a stoplight to the placement of an entire country!
Aside from Nelson Mandela’s death, there are many other notable examples.
- Looney Toons is actually spelled Looney Tunes and has been since its beginning.
- Pikachu does not have a black-tipped tail. It’s just yellow.
- In the spirit of the many Star Wars related articles you’ve seen all over the site, the famous quote “Luke, I am your father” is actually “No, I am your father.” You’ve probably heard this one, but there is another interesting layer to it. James Earl Jones, the voice for Darth Vader, remembers the line as “Luke, I am your father” despite having said the line in the original movie. Additionally, C-3PO has had a silver leg since the first movie.
- One of the most famous examples is The Berenstein Bears. It is actually Berenstain Bears.
- What color is Chartreuse? Many people remember it being a hot pinkish color when in reality, it is a shade of green.
- Neil Armstrong died in 2012. Many people, including myself, believed he was still alive.
- Another famous one. In Snow White, the Wicked Witch says “Magic mirror on the wall…” not “Mirror mirror on the wall…”
Those are just a few examples. There are many more I discovered while researching that made me question my reality. Some of them were as simple as switching words like “that” and “this” to whether New Zealand is northeast or southeast to Australia. Spoilers, it’s southeast. Also, there are 50 states in the U.S, not 51 or 52. But why do people make these seemingly small mental mistakes? For many, it’s simply that it’s just always been that way. This begs the question, are these simply human errors, or is something much bigger at play? There are many theories as to how and why the Mandela effect occurs. I’m sure you’re wondering how something like this happens, and there are a few theories. These theories range from a simple human error to the nature of quantum mechanics.
“False memory refers to cases in which people remember events differently from the way they happened or, in the most dramatic case, remember events that never happened at all” -Scholarpedia
If you take a more scientific approach to things, this is your best answer. False memories are a fairly common occurrence. As amazing as the brain is, it makes a lot of weird mistakes that could make us look less than intelligent, like mistakenly believing that there are 51 states. People claim to have distinct memories of learning about Mendela’s “death” in 1980. For instance, the Sunday Times gives us these two accounts of people with memories of Nelson Mandela’s death in 1980.
Robert Crowder said he learned of Mandela’s death in the mid-80s in his geography class. “I was in high school in the mid-80s and I remember that we discussed Mandela’s death in my geography and economics classes.”
Another, Danielle, said, “I remember in Grade 4 in 1997 when I learned Nelson Mandela was dead. It was black history month. My confusion later in life when I heard about him in the news, I was baffled that I believed for so long and so surely that he had died.”
Along with these accounts, people also remember seeing new coverage of Mandela’s death and Fione Broome, the woman who conducted the survey and coined the term Mandela effect said she even remembered Nelson Mandela’s widow giving a speech after his death. Of course, no such thing had happened at the time. False memories like this happen a lot. When someone is convinced an event occurred, their brain will fabricate memories of that event, despite it never happening. Because false memories are so common, it’s easy to explain away instances of the Mandela effect as just people misremembering things. The false memory explanation also explains how many examples of the Mandela effect are fairly small, easily mistaken details. But how do so many people have the same misconception? It’s simple sociology. If enough people believe that the quote is “Luke, I am your father”, then the mistake doesn’t get corrected.
Humans have a group mentality, which means you might think “Everyone else says the line is this, so it must be correct”. And so, millions of people remember the line as “Luke, I am your father” rather than what it really is. This is the logical, scientific theory, but what if you aren’t satisfied with that answer? Then the second theory is for you.
Among conspiracy theorists, there is a theory that the Mandela effect is caused by the collision, merging, or interaction of parallel universes . Before you click away, let me explain.
We are all familiar with the theory of the multiverse. The MCU and comics are where we see this concept the most and it has become a widely popular concept these last few years. Well, this theory states that the reason some people believe that Nelson Mandela died in prison is because he did die in prison in an alternate universe. This universe then interacted with ours in some way, leading to some people having the memory where he died in prison, a memory from a different universe. If you follow this theory, that also means that there is a universe where there are 51 states, the quote is “Luke, I am your father”, and Chartreuse is pink and not green.
Fione Broome was a paranormal researcher, and this was her explanation for the Mandela effect. If you couldn’t tell, this theory is a little bit out there. Anything involving a multiverse falls more into the realm of pseudoscience rather than proven, tested science. There’s no scientific proof for the existence of the multiverse or multiple realities and most things involving quantum theory are just that, theories. However, it’s a fun theory nonetheless.
Now if you ever catch yourself thinking, “Am I remembering that right?” you know that it’s because two parallel universes collided, warping reality and giving you a false memory of something that didn’t happen. That is, if you believe this sort of thing.