Mandela effect: what is it and how does it happen?

The Mandela effect tells us about the deformation of certain memories, to the point of recreating a story that never happened. How is it possible?

Last update: 22 January, 2022

Some years ago I witnessed the conversation of two brothers who referred to the same childhood episode, although with completely dissimilar details. Each claimed to be right and faithful witness of what he said. Who was right? Difficult to know, since perhaps one of them was living the calling mandela effect. Let’s see what this phenomenon is all about.

What is the Mandela effect?

If we had to think about how to define the Mandela effect, we could simplify it by saying that it is a false memory. A person begins to reconstruct a situation or episode, convinced that it happened in such a way, when in fact it does not. At the same time, add the fact that such reconstruction finds support in other people who adhere to that version.

The idea of ​​the Mandela effect arose from Fiona Broome, who demonstrated how society was capable of believing in something that had not happened: Mandela’s death at a certain time and place (when he was in prison).

Actually, Mandela died quite recently (2013), after being president of South Africa. The conviction of the people was such that many were able to affirm that they had seen the funeral on television. In this explanation, the variable of the social contagion.

Some examples of the Mandela effect are the following:

  • Remembering having made a trip as a child, being able to describe the place where we were and that it was not like that.
  • Some movie episodes or endings can be recreated in different ways.
Many people may believe that an event happened in the past without it being true. And in this case there is no mental or neurological pathology that explains it.

To understand the Mandela effect

Some of the ideas regarding the Mandela effect have to do with the fact that the brain processes large amounts of information and data simultaneously, so it’s hard for memory to store everything. Hence, when it finds a void, it fills it in some way.

These added data can be partial and of little importance, such as firmly maintaining that on the day that a certain event occurred, that person was wearing striped pants, for example. However, other deviations can be of great importance, such as claiming that a person’s funeral was attended, when that person died years before or much later.

At first glance, it may seem that it is a deformation without major importance. In any case, in some areas, leaning towards one piece of information or another can be crucial.

Hence, many disciplines, such as psychology applied to the field of criminology, have the Mandela effect very much in mind to distinguish when a witness tells the truth and when he thinks he is saying it because he is biased by his false memory.



Some explanations about memories

The investigations show that memory is not something that remains intact on a showcase, but rather undergoes processes, constructions and reconstructions every time we appeal to something that it has housed. Many times, this information is distorted by the comment or addition of a third party.

Our memory becomes a fusion of ideas and leads to a false memory. On other occasions, that change is due to the internal processes themselves.

In addition, the moment in which the memory is formed is also associated with the circumstance. For example, if it is a brief or sudden experience, the quality memory may not be good. The intensity of the situation also influences, as evidenced by traumatic episodes.

So, we must consider that many events are stored with a certain emotional charge. So also what is selected to be saved and what is left out can be very different.

Likewise, when remembering (which is reconstructing) experiences, expectations and new emotions pass. In this way, what we bring to the present from the past is not necessarily as faithful as we think.

Even remembered images of a photograph can influence memory, causing the Mandela effect.


Yes, memory can fail

Now we know that memory is not perfect and that different stimuli influence when recreating what was lived. This is why, in everyday life, we can bet on strengthening memory using different objects or techniques. For example, a notepad or some technological device is enough.

To all of the above, it must be added that different people’s perspectives intervene in the construction of these false memories. So each of them experiences a situation from her own point of view and in her own shoes. Hence, it is also feasible to have two different histories.

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