The Mandela Effect

Emmeline Accardi
January 30, 2021

You know when you’re absolutely sure that something is true, and there’s no way you can be convinced otherwise?

You’ll Google it seconds later and find out that you are not, in fact, correct. Maybe what you’re thinking about never even happened! I’m sure we’ve all been there, tricked by our own brain into believing a false memory. Sometimes, however, a whole group of people are tricked by these “memories”. 

Well, don’t worry, that’s just the Mandela effect. 

The Mandela effect first arose in 2010 when Fionna Broome admitted that she believed Nelson Mandela to have passed away in the 1980s, when in reality he lived until 2013. She went so far as to claim that she watched news coverage of his death, as well as a speech from his widow. But none of this ever happened. “What’s the big deal” you may ask. She just fell asleep in her history classes, right? Well, you would be right if it weren’t for the minor detail that thousands of people share her belief. We continue to see situations like this happen over and over again, such people realizing that the infamous Star Wars line is “No, I am your father” and not “Luke, I am your father”. (I’m sure we are all collectively mind blown by that one.) 

One explanation offered for the Mandela effect is that it is the result of an alternate universe where things happen slightly differently than in our society. If you prefer to look at it from a scientific point of view, doctors often claim the Mandela effect is a result of confabulation, otherwise known as “honest lying”. This is a false memory created by someone without intending to lie. Instead, they aim to simply fill in gaps in their own memory. A final explanation for this effect is that you start to believe something simply because it is repeated so many times. You could think of it like a game of broken telephone where the resulting message is completely altered because a different version is said so many times. You can spot whether this explanation applies to a situation by asking a person something general such like “How did Nelson Mandela die?” rather than “Did Nelson Mandela die in prison?” That way, you leave space for their own interpretation. 

In the end, no one is really sure what causes these altered memories that just seem so real, but whether it’s proof of an alternate universe or an example of how imperfect memory can be, here are some nonetheless potentially surprising cases from goodhousekeeping.com.

  1. The monkey George from Curious George never had a tail.

2. The Monopoly Man never had a monocle.

3. Pikachu never had a black dash on the end of his tail.

4. Fruit of the loom never had a cornucopia.


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