The Mandela Effect is the popular name for the phenomenon where large groups of people erroneously remember something that didn’t actually happen. It is called the Mandela Effect because even though Nelson Mandela died in 2013, large swaths of the population claim to remember him having died in the 1980s in prison.
Examples of the Mandela Effect
There are numerous examples of such shared false memories. Maybe you share some of these memories. Here are some of the more famous examples:
We are the Champions: How does the end of the song by Queen “We are the Champions” end? According to Buzzfeed, “many of those familiar with the song remember the final lyrics being ‘No time for losers, ’cause we are the champions…of the world!’ Guess what? There is no ‘of the world!’ The song just ends, and it’s driving people crazy because they feel 100% sure that they’ve heard otherwise in the past.” Check it out for yourself:
The Berenst_in Bears: Many people remember/claim that it is the “Berenstein Bears” when its really the “Berenstain Bears.”
Star Wars: Darth Vader never says “Luke, I am your father.” Instead, he says, “No, I am your father.” Check out the below at about 1:55:
Silence of the Lambs: Hannibal Lecter, when he first meets Clarice, never says “Hello, Clarice.” Instead, he merely says “Good morning.” Wow.
Snow White: The Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs never says “Mirror, mirror on the wall.” Instead she says “Magic mirror on the wall.”
Moonraker: The one that has freaked me out the most is from the 1979 James Bond film Moonraker. I could have sworn Dolly, when she meets and smiles at Jaws, has braces. She doesn’t. ARGH.
What are the possible explanations for the shared false memory phenomenon?
Glitch in the Matrix: Maybe we’re all living in a simulation and the shared false memories have to do with a glitch in the software of the simulation. Related IFOD: Are We All Living in a Simulation?
Parallel Universes: One popular internet theory is that advanced particle physics research has shifted us into an alternate universe but many of us still remember the events of the prior universe which was very similar but different. From a CNBC story:
There’s a theory going around online that CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) experiments have caused the world to shift into an alternate reality where Donald Trump has become president. Conspiracy theorists have cited ‘evidence’ like his quote on terrorist attacks on Sweden and assertions that Muslims were cheering in the streets after 9/11, both events which they believe stem from memories of a parallel universe Trump used to reside in.
Note that CERN has denied that they have created parallel universes.
The prior two explanations are highly unlikely.
The actual explanation is that human memory is complex and subject to errors. We think of our memories as like video stored on a hard drive which we play back. But that is not how memory works. Instead memories are built from bits and pieces of information stored in our vast networks of neurons. Our memories are subject to suggestibility and we often reconstruct our past memories with information learned later or even just things that our brains make up. This is called confabulation and occurs when our brains attempt to fill gaps in memory by adding made up or fabricated events. Our brains mix and match different bits of information in our minds in order to create coherent stories, even when those stories aren’t real. We don’t even know we’re doing it.
While confabulation and memory errors can easily explain a single person’s “remembering” something that didn’t happen, the Mandela Effect relies on the same sort of individual errors happening consistently across multiple people.
For example, people likely mis-remembered Nelson Mandela dying in jail in the 1980s because we remember that Nelson Mandela has died and know that he was in jail a long time. Additionally, another prominent anti-apartheid activist, Steve Biko, did die in jail. So, bits and pieces of these true bits of information get confabulated together to create a “memory” that he died in jail.
Or in the case of the Berenstain Bears, “one explanation for the variant spelling is that names ending in ‘stein’ are far more common than those ending in ‘stain.’ People’s recollections are distorted by prior associations and expectations.” Source.