The Mandela Effect: The Science Behind Collective False Memories

Parallel universes, alternate realities, or just collective bad memory? What is the Mandela Effect?
Susan Fourtané

If you have ever been under the impression that you remembered things differently from what is generally known to be a fact, then there is a chance that you might be experiencing the Mandela Effect. 

Some people are so convinced about what they think they remember that will present some kind of Mandela Effect proof as part of a discussion. But, what is the Mandela Effect? 

The Mandela Effect is . . . 

Some people believe that the Mandela Effects is an alter-reality effect. Some others believe the Mandela Effect attempts to prove how your mind plays tricks on you in a kind of collective memory that works in a way that is not always explained. 

The known Mandela Effect memories are now about 100. Not every example of the Mandela Effect will apply to everyone. What may seem ridiculous to some people may be a reality to someone else; that is the nature of the Mandela Effect.

Why it is called the Mandela Effect

Collective misremembering of common events or details were first recorded in 2010. Back then, countless people on the Internet falsely remembered that Nelson Mandela was dead and that he had died in prison during the 1980s.

In reality, the South African leader was actually freed in 1990 and passed away much later on December 5, 2013. Some people even claimed they remembered clips of Mandela's funeral on TV.

Since then, all similar collective memory has been called the Mandela Effect. 

Mandela Effect and Collective reality 

Frequently reported errors made by a number of individuals are part of the collective reality. This collective reality circulates information among different groups. This information, part of a shared reality may become dangerous in such case when the circulated information is false. 

To make matters worse, the Internet and social media contribute to reinforce any information transmitted throughout the network channels. Take the example of simulations of the 1997 Princess Diana of Wales car crash that are regularly mistaken for real footage. 

Most of the Mandela Effect cases are attributed to memory errors and deep social misinformation passing on from individual to individual without checking facts. The history of humanity is rich in abundance of inaccurate information that has been circulated from generation to generation, information that has been recorded in history books, and taught in schools around the globe. It makes you wonder: What is real?

Can the Mandela Effect be explained in terms of the multiverse? The idea of parallel universes remains consistent with quantum physics. However, the existence of alternative universes or alternative realities can't be established. But it is possible to find answers in known psychological theories. 

Mandela Effect on Reddit

There is a dedicated Mandela Effect subreddit: r/MandelaEffect. Here is where people realizing they remember things differently than what generally is known to be fact post what they believe is a newly discovered Mandela Effect. This subreddit counts with 98.9K subscribers at the time of the publication of this article. 

There are also cases where people note when they have found some information such as Fruit of the Loom admitted to be conducting a social experiment to see if people would notice things. They didn't. 

How many Mandela Effects have been social experiments? Perhaps quite a few of them, especially the ones involving brands since social experiments are used as part of marketing research.

Some Mandela Effect examples

In the case of the Mandela Effects, a lot of the inaccuracies are simply trivial, suggesting the observation from selective attention, or faulty interference.

Can popular culture be reliable? Can collective memory be reliable? All the Mandela Effect examples, the ones listed below and many others, such as some people remembering that Mickey Mouse used to have suspenders and the Monopoly guy used to wear a monocle are part of a popular culture that well can be modified at some point in time and be remembered differently by different generations. 

The possibility of someone misquoting a movie line, such as the case of the line play it again, Sam, which was never said in Casablanca, is utterly common. 

Mandela Effect: Star Wars: Luke, I am your father

“Luke, I am your father” is one of the most famous phrases quoted from Star Wars. However, many are discovering that it's not what Darth Vader said. He actually says, “No, I am your father.” So, is this just a misremembered movie line or, did some otherworldly shenanigans take place?  

Mandela Effect: Mirror, mirror on the wall . . . 

One of the most popular Mandela Effect's example is the line in Snow White that some people clearly remember as "mirror, mirror on the wall," which in reality is "magic mirror on the wall."

Mandela Effect: "We Are the Champions" by Queen

Many seem to remember the lyrics ending "No time for losers, 'cause we are the champions . . . of the world." However, at the end, the song just ends after " . . . we are the champions." There is no "of the world" at the end.

Mandela Effect: Logos . . . and branding 

The examples related to the Mandela Effect concerning logos is a little controversial since there are logical reasons to explain why some of the brands have changed their logos over time, and therefore, different generations at different times remember a different logo.

The Mandela Effect: The Science Behind Collective False Memories
Source: Scorpions and Centaurs

In a few other cases, it can just be that some people thought it was different from what it really is. Some examples of Mandela Effect brands include: Looney Toons or Looney Tunes, Froot Loops or Fruit Loops, Ford with a loop or Ford straight, Berenstain Bears or Berenstein Bears. 

The Mandela Effect: The Science Behind Collective False Memories
Source: Ford Motor Company

But there is something else: Logos play a fundamental role in brand marketing. Companies such as Starbucks have changed their logo several times. If you remember the old Starbucks logo that doesn't mean it's a Mandela Effect. It only means the Starbucks logo has actually changed. A logo change is related to the evolution of a brand

Starbucks logo not Mandela effect
Source: Design Hill 

If you want to test your memory, here is a Mandela Effect Test you can take. 

Mandela Effect: Mona Lisa 

Mona Lisa Mandela effect
Source: Wikimedia Commons

How do you remember the smile of Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa? Some people clearly remember the Mona Lisa smiling. However, the original Mona Lisa doesn't smile. 

Mandela Effect theories and CERN

CERN, the European Council for Nuclear Research and the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland tries to explain the Mandela Effect at a more scientific level.

CERN’s experiments are intended to find illusory particles that could potentially show evidence of a multiverse, create tiny black holes, or discover dark matter.

What could possibly go wrong if we opened up a black hole, or tapped into another dimension with consequences unknown?

Scientists at CERN assure that these experiments are conducted on a controlled, small scale as to have little, if any, negative consequences.

However, some believe that their meddling in quantum fields has led to some strange effects, having potentially resulted in some kind of interdimensional entanglement. 

Theoretical physicists have explained the Mandela Effect in different ways. While Professor Stephen Hawking said that black holes could be portals to a Parallel Universe, Max Laughling - a very young theoretical physicist- explained the Mandela Effect in this way. 

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