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The Mandela Effect: Collective False Memories or Something Bigger?

Updated on June 25, 2017

The world is one crazy place. We aren't strangers to conspiracy theories, whether it be the moon landing being faked, John F. Kennedy's murderer, or the true nature of area 51.

A fairly recent phenomenon that has come to light on the internet is the Mandela Effect. It's unclear whether this should actually be considered a conspiracy theory, as it is more of an observation than claims to any conspiracy.

So what is the Mandela Effect?

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Its Origins

A few years ago, when the news about Nelson Mandela dying in 2013 came to light, it left many people scratching their heads. A lot of people recalled Nelson Mandela dying much, much earlier, in either the late 1980s or the early 1990s. Before 2013, many people were taught in school that he'd died over twenty years before his "official" death. So what happened? Some kind of conspiracy, or just collective false memories?

Since then, many, many more "changes" have come to light. Make sure you take the quiz below to see if you've been affected by it. All of the incorrect answers are common false memories associated with the topic.

The Memory Quiz


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How many did you get right? The alternative answers are ones that are considered to be false, and were always false.

A lot of these leave people of many ages and nationalities baffled, although it has mostly been observed in western countries seeing as many of these effects have appeared in western popular culture. However, instances of false memories of Pikachu's tail have also appeared in Japan.

More Examples

The quiz was just the tip of the iceburg. Many people swear that many other things have changed, too, such as Earth's maps:

  • The location of Australia (many people remember it being farther south)
  • Greenland's size (many people remember it being much smaller)
  • The location of South America (it is much farther east than most people remember it)

Logos:

  • The top and bottom half of the Volkswagen logo used to not be connected in people's memories.
  • People do not remember the F in the Ford logo having the small curl.
  • The odd L in the Staples logo seems new to many people.

And others:

  • Many people remember Adolf's Hilter's eyes being brown. It was a sort of running theme of irony that his ideal race was blonde and blue-eyed, yet his eyes were brown. Now, however, they are blue.
  • The song lyrics in We Are the Champions by Queen do not end with "...of the world", although many people remember it like that.

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Theories

Reddit seems to be the main place for discussing the Mandela Effect, as the website is quite an open-minded place to openly discuss phenomenons like these. Some common theories include the following:

  • This is all a massive social experiment. Some claim that the government or some kind of higher force is manipulating people's memories, somehow, either by brainwashing or by some other means.
  • We are shifting between parallel universes. Some people say we are all from various parallel universes with minor differences in our reality. Now, we're somehow shifting through universes where things are almost the same, but with minor differences. We are carrying our memories with us, and becoming confused when we see things have not only change, but without any official record of them changing. CERN's supercollider and quantum computing have fuelled these theories.
  • It's all just a bunch of false memories. There is no phenomenon - we all just remember things the same, somehow.

Although there are other theories out there, these three are the main suggestions that have been put forward. However, it's a very difficult thing to prove.

What do you think the Mandela Effect is?

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Reddit constantly has new discoveries and theories posted on their Mandela Effect board, so be sure to check it out if you want to stay updated on this intriguing phenomenon. What's your take on this craziness? Let us know in the comments.

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      Mark Galloway 7 weeks ago

      Great article and well explained. I've noticed this more and more and a few have me baffled, particularly 'Interview with A Vampire' now being 'Interview with THE Vampire' when even Tom Cruise remembers is as being an A.

      It could just be collective mis-remembering, but it's interesting all the same. Thanks for the article.

    • poppyr profile image
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      Poppy Reid 7 weeks ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Great comment! It's so creepy when you experience it for yourself. Just how reliable are our memories? It's easy to worry that you're going crazy when your very reality seems to be changing before your eyes.

      As for the things changing in your personal life, is there a way to record what is happening? That might help with keeping track of what's going on.

    • poppyr profile image
      Author

      Poppy Reid 7 weeks ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Thanks for taking the time to contribute your opinion! It's so interesting to see how people react so differently to this phenomenon. I agree with you that the Mandela Effect may never be completely "debunked" as people are sure of their memories. Many thanks for contributing :D

    • AshutoshJoshi06 profile image

      Ashutosh Joshi 7 weeks ago from New Delhi, India

      The first time I read about ME, it sure was intriguing. But quite frankly it doesn't impress me anymore, I rather find it amusing. Stuff like this should actually go 'bold' in those Conspiracy theories or Hoaxes. Unfortunately, I am not on that intellectual scale to give appropriate theoretical rebuttals but nonetheless this is what I feel.

      Confabulation or false perceptions is the term I came across on the internet and it aptly describes ME as mere misinterpreted, distorted or fabricated memories. There was also an interesting discussions wherein some Americans insisted on being taught the wrong spelling of 'dilemma' as 'dilemna'. And then there were cheerleaders or conspiracy-theorist deliberately trying to mix this with Mandela Effect. This example is important cuz most of ME examples are primarily around verbatims, songs, brand name or logos, cartoons, quotations etc which could have been misspelled or misrepresented or perhaps remembered in a way it was thought to be apt. For example Looney Toons instead of Looney Tunes because of the obvious correlation.

      Its truly a crazy world out there and people these days are hellbent on establishing even the best of proven concepts as hoaxes or conspiracies and vice versa. Its hard to really debunk ME as the believers are too convinced of their recollections. So shall it stay. I guess our powerful mind is the real culprit that executes the perfect deception.

    • I Am Rosa profile image

      Rosa Marchisella 7 weeks ago from Canada

      It's equally amusing and alarming that you posted this now. I'm actually dealing with this NOW. Also - I totally failed your test. It was hard to take because you didn't always have the answer I know as an option and in some cases I have multiple memories ....

      I remember Nelson Mandela dying in the 90's and a national holiday being put into effect. That's how I learned who he was. I read an article about who he was and why we were honouring him with is own holiday. BTW - he wasn't president. He was political freedom fighter of some sort. I remember the holiday for about 3 years after that, but stopped paying attention to holidays about that time because I was unemployed and the monthly national holidays didn't affect me any more.

      I ALSO remember about 2 years ago seeing in the FB trending news that he was released from prison and was elected president ("FINALLY!!" The news screamed with vindication) of some small S. African country (I *think* it was Malawi, but I was too busy being shocked at the news he was alive to actually pay attention). I Googled him to show my SO that he was DEAD and learned about the "Mandela Effect" ...

      So, you can image the brain pain I'm having right now. This article made me Google the man (again) because I'm shocked to hear he's dead (again), but this time in 2013 - 2 years before he became president after being dead for nearly 2 decades!?!?!

      Also:

      I remember Hilter's eyes being brown and making the comments and having full conversations with others (including in history class) about how he wasn't one of the chosen.

      I remember "of the world" for "We Are the Champions". I remember the first time I actually heard the lyrics clearly because FINALLY there wasn't a bunch of goofy teens bellowing along with the song. I said, "Oh. THAT'S what he's saying. Makes sense."

      Jiffy PB. I saw the commercials so many times. I was very confused the day I saw Jif at the store in the early 90's. I asked my partner at the time if they changed their name or if it was different in the US (where the commercial originated from) than in Canada (where I grew up and live). He thought I was cracked cuz to him, it was always Jif. It was his favourite brand as a kid.

      Oscar Mayer. Again, I was stumped when I saw Meyer in the store, but my SO at the time said it had ALWAYS been "Meyer". I remember singing the jingle as a kid "M-A-Y-E-R" .... and I've just Googled it to see that I'm once again somewhere it's Mayer and my childhood jingle still exists ...

      It was Bearstein bears. I hated the books as a kid and thought they were creepy. I didn't like to touch them they freaked me out so much. I remember sitting on the floor of the school library staring at them, creeped out and mesmerized by how hideous the art was. The spelling spelling of it was burned into memory that day. I thought it was the lamest freaking joke to name a series about ugly brown bears "Bearstein" - and wondering if they were Jewish for the "stein" part? .... I have this vivid memory BUT after discussing the name discrepancy with someone, I suddenly "remembered" it as Berenstein, but it's a hazy "greyish" memory that isn't clear.

      Then there's the weird things that have been happening to me personally and with increasing frequency ... Like a childhood scar that my mom and I both remember which disappeared for several years and then reappeared in a different spot. Finding marks on my legs when I'm toweling off that were NOT there 2 minutes earlier when I was shaving my legs - then suddenly "remembering" where they came from except I KNOW that memory never happened. Technical things around the apartment changing appearance. TV shows I watched that don't exist ... I'm talking "matrix level" mind messing.

      So. WTH? Aliens? The Matrix? Am I slipping back and forth between dimensions every time I "Om" in the shower? Are the pixies messing with my mind? lol I'd write a book about it, but I wouldn't know how to explain it or make it believable to the audience :p