The Psychology of the Mandela Effect

Mandela effect

Looking back over the past decade or so there are few phenomena quite like the Mandela Effect. Coined in 2009 in reference to the mistaken memory of Nelson Mandela dying in 1980, several examples began to pop up soon after all over the internet. 

The Berenstain not Berenstein bears, Jif peanutbutter not Jiffy, the Monopoly man not having a monocle, these are all examples of this odd social phenomenon. Even something as major as Darth Vader not saying “Luke, I am your father” but “No, I am your father”, it would be hard to find someone who doesn’t resonate with one example of this effect.

The question remains, why and how could this possibly happen? This isn’t just a few friends who have the same skewed memory, it can be millions of people. The main culprit is humans’ unfortunately unreliable memory. While memory is supposed to serve as reference to past realities, it doesn’t always do so very well.

This is because of all of the weaknesses the mind possesses. On a subconscious level, humans change their memory to conform to groups, to sate their imagination, to fit overarching theories, and at times just generally produce false memories. Technology has only worked to make this issue worse.

In an age with so much information available, coming to the wrong conclusions and rewriting one’s memory has never been easier. This doesn’t just apply to the Mandela Effect, misinformation at large is only growing year after year. It’s a scary state for memory, but all one can do is try to verify what they believe and stay cautious. It’s one thing to misremember the Monopoly man and another to misremember a worldwide event.

Mandela Effect
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