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Index – Science – Everyone has a bad memory, but what is the Mandela effect?

Fiona Brum, a “paranormal counselor”, was at a conference in 2009 when she learned that Nelson Mandela was still alive (and what Broom didn’t know at the time, that she would die only 4 years later). He, along with many others, lived to believe that Mandela had died during his imprisonment from 1964 to 1990. Prum surprised and called this phenomenon of sudden shock the Mandela Effect, the collective misconception and false memory of something about several people. They think that something happened after that and so on, but it didn’t. The really strange thing is that a small percentage of these people cling to the supposed truth even after the facts have emerged.

These memories are usually popular cultural errors – slogans, phrases, or collective memories of historical events in movies, music, and commercials. For example, when asked what color C-3PO was in Star Wars, most people would cut gold, even though one of their legs was silver. Or that Darth Vader says, “Luke, I am your father,” even though the sentence says, “No, I am your father.” A similar common misconception is that the Stone Age family are called Flinstones, although Flintstones, we can even list them. By the way, many literary works and films have been made about the strange nature of memory, which is not always a complete fiction, think of Madeleine Proust, or the eternal radiance of a pure mind, which examines the fixation of love in memory.

Everyone has a bad memory

According to the 2020 Memory Survey, three-quarters of people have made at least one mistake in trying memory retrieval, even if their memory is very good. Correct answers do not exceed 95 percent. Therefore, human memory is not infallible.

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As Updike wrote, who died in the year the Mandela effect was established:

The memory is intermittent, as if the film was not dipped in the developer, just compressed.

Things that did not happen, or events that become obscure over time, may appear real and knowledge may be distorted or confused. What kinds of errors can exist in memory? We can remember whole events that simply did not happen, but it also happens that only part of the memories are wrong.

Film producer Robert Evans is famous for saying, “Every story has three sides: your side, my side, and the truth.”


The Mandela effect can be explained by false memories, for example, but why do memories change? Distortions can be caused by emotions, bias can greatly affect memories, and it is a scientifically proven fact that emotionally intense events usually cause inaccurate memories. Recognizing a faulty memory is almost impossible, since any of our memories can be confused, faulty, or inaccurate.

Confusion can also be another cause, which is essentially a series of false statements or anecdotes of events that are not based on facts. It’s a whole lot of incorrect information, but whoever hears it will consider it true.

People don’t share intentionally, they don’t know the exact information and they can’t give a better explanation (but an explanation is definitely needed to reassure oneself).

Tangle is a common symptom of specific neurological memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

There is another interesting theory of the Mandela effect which actually derives from quantum physics and string theory. This multiverse theory, that is, there is no single timeline, we have, but alternative universes or realities mixed with ours.

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The Internet can also greatly affect and distort our memory and create the Mandela Effect. On the Internet, anyone can express their own experience or memory of an event, and these potential false memories can affect the memory of others. False details can be included in the memory of others as fact, and in the end appear correct.

Refutation of the multiverse

Tim Hollins, Professor of Experimental Psychology at the University of Plymouth, stresses that our memories are fallible. For example, bring up Asch’s experience when people adapt to a point of view due to group acceptance. But he also states that memories are also affected by subsequent learning and experience.

According to him, the phenomenon most relevant to the Mandela effect is “basic memory”, that is, when a person has a general idea of ​​something but does not necessarily remember the details. These memories are not really nourished by reality, but by existing beliefs and knowledge. According to Hollins:

People tend to believe their memories a lot, even when faced with evidence. Maybe it’s some kind of ego protection.

It completely rules out the parallel universes explanation, but understands why people like this theory: their memories are seen as evidence of parallel universes to explain how they can simultaneously see themselves as having a good memory while facing evidence to the contrary.


(Cover image: Nelson Mandela. Photo: Louise Job/Corbis Saba/Corbis/Getty Images)