The Mandela Effect: can our memories be false?

The Mandela Effect is a phenomenon whereby a group of people believe that their distorted or misremembered memories are in fact reality. Here, we take a look at the origin of the phenomenon, the possible causes and some real-life examples of it.  

Examples of the Mandela effect have been identified since the term was coined in 2009 by author and researcher, Fiona Broome. Broome detailed her recollection of former South African President Nelson Mandela passing away in prison during the 1980s. In fact, this was not the case as Mandela left prison alive and well and was released after 27 years before going on to become South African President between 1994 and 1999.  

The phenomenon came to be when Broome found that many people had the same perception of events as she did, even recounting international news coverage of the death that included a speech from his spouse. This was false, and sparked her interest in this theory which was termed ‘The Mandela Effect’ as her first encounter and documented example.  

The Mandela Effect, as outlined in Medical News Today, can include: 

  • The distortion of memories in which some aspects are partially or entirely inaccurate; 
  • clearly remembering certain events that did not happen in reality;  
  • several unrelated people sharing similar distorted or inaccurate memories. 

Possible causes 

There are several theories regarding the Mandela Effect and its causes which will be outlined in more detail below.  

False Memories 

The idea that we can misremember, or create false memories in our minds is not always a negative notion. A false memory can be described as a recollection that in your perception seems like reality but is in fact fabricated in part or in whole.  

According to healthline.com, false memories are not intentionally malicious or hurtful, but are actually shifts or reconstructions of memory. An example of this could be you believing that you had put your washing machine to run before leaving the house, and specifically remember doing it, only to return and find out this was not the case. This typically happens with actions that we are accustomed to, or have repeated numerous times as the memory is ingrained in our brain, so is more likely to confirm the false memory.  

Internet hoaxes or misinformation 

The internet’s impact on creating false memories cannot be underestimated and is a good indication as to why the Mandela Effect has only gained traction within the digital age.  

Information can be spread via the internet through social media platforms and blogging websites among other channels. The internet, in its usual fashion, jumps on hoaxes and incorrect information and runs with it, creating a new narrative and an alternative story to what is in reality.  

According to verywellmind.co.uk, on Twitter, a hoax is believed over the truth up to 70% of the time. This is because as more people spread and share the incorrect information, it shapes the way others see the same topic or story and accelerates the Mandela Effect, becoming incorporated into people’s memories as facts and strengthening their conviction that they were correct.  

Alternate realities 

The Mandela Effect, as described by Broome, is a clear memory of an event that never occurred in this reality. The notion that a large group of people are in the same mindset has meant that other more unconventional theories have emerged, suggesting that the phenomenon occurs when our reality interacts with another alternate reality or parallel universe.  

The idea of a parallel universe or multiverse theory has emerged in recent years following the proven mathematical foundation of string theory. It is a controversial topic and polarises much of society. The fact that so many believed that Nelson Mandela passed away in the 1980s could be evidence of alternative realities, but there is no real evidence that is the case. Definitely a fun notion to explore.  

Examples of the Mandela Effect  

There are many real-life examples of the Mandela Effect in action, that range from music and movies to company slogans and logos. We all have an idea of reality in our minds, but it seems as though we are not always correct. Here are some Mandela Effect examples to put the phenomenon into perspective.  

Luke, I am your father 

Arguably one of the most iconic reveals and quotable lines in movie history, Darth Vader’s famous line, “Luke, I am your father” has been spoofed, re-enacted and copied a multitude of times in other TV programs or films. But that line is actually incorrect! The actual line, from Star Wars Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back is “No. I am your father”, but is falsely remembered by a huge proportion of the population.  

KitKat vs Kit-Kat 

You can find many examples of logos and images being misremembered by a large percentage of the population. It became a trend on social media, with many pointing out that they remember a completely different image.  

In 2016 one Twitter user engaged with KitKat via Twitter, to ask if the brand had ever changed its logo from “Kit-Kat” to “KitKat”. KitKat then responded that the name has never been hyphenated, and many users were shocked to find that out, responding that they specifically remember there being a hyphen at one point. KitKat even referenced the phenomenon by hashtagging #MandelaEffect in its response.  

Monopoly: monocle or no monocle?  

Another famous example that has caused controversy in the past. Large percentages of the population believe wholeheartedly that the “Monopoly guy” wears a monocle, but this is incorrect. No iteration of the Monopoly logo has ever shown its mascot with a monocle!  

This is very similar to the Pringles logo, where people swear they remember seeing the face on the Pringles logo to have glasses or a monocle too, but again, not the case.  

This phenomenon has sparked interest from media outlets such as BuzzFeed, which wrote about 20 Examples Of The Mandela Effect That’ll Make You Believe You’re In A Parallel Universe, including some mentioned above.  

The one question that still remains is: why does this happen? It is still a mystery. Memory is a complex part of how the brain works and how we perceive the world around us, and can be influenced by many stimuli from our environment including certain sounds and smells. The Mandela Effect shows how we can conjure our own realities in our minds, but also how delicate memories can be.  

At My Story Told, we care about sharing your memories and ensuring that future generations, family members and friends can remember your life how you saw it. Our storytelling team will ensure that you can give a gift that lasts a lifetime, and tell your story, your way.  

Contact us to start your storytelling journey today.