What Is Mandela Effect? (Causes, Facts, Example)

Mandela Effect Explanation

The science behind the Mandela effect is our collective false memories. Did you ever start watching a movie on TV with your friends and see an actor or actress you and your friends remember as having died? Then a quick Google search assures you that they’re very much alive.

This common occurrence is called the Mandela effect. Also, it is a collective misremembering of a fact or event. The term Mandela effect was first coined by the paranormal enthusiast Fiona Broome worldwide. Remembered former South African president Nelson Mandela as having died in prison during the 1980s. People even remembered watching Mandela’s funeral on TV during the 1980s. Nelson Mandela was released after 27 years in prison, became South Africa’s president, and didn’t die until 2013.

What is Mandela effect?

The Mandela effect is when a collective of people shares a memory that doesn’t match recorded history. Studies have found that human memory is incredibly unreliable. When those memories are from childhood, memories can also collide and reinforce others.

A study on human semantic memory found that the brain stores similar words and information in adjacent parts of the brain. When those memories are recalled, an association between those memories can be formed.

Another study found that most Americans believed that Alexander Hamilton was a president. But he wasn’t. It is because students often learn about the founding fathers. Simultaneously, the neurons in their brains that encode those different information pieces would form an association between those pieces of information and would fire off together.

These types of memories are called flashbulb memories. Memories of dramatic events are so emotional that they drain the detail from the memory of that event. When reality seems too difficult to face, we retreat behind defensive mechanisms. The human brain thought images of past experiences are projected into the future.

These false memories make people believe:

  • They have a terrible memory.
  • They’ve gone into a parallel universe, or time travelers have gone into the past and slightly affected the present time.

Causes of Mandela effect

The modern psychological theory holds that memory is constructive, not reproductive. That means our brains build memories on the fly out of pieces of information instead of playing memories back like a recording. Because of that, our memories can be distorted by bias, association imagination, or even peer pressure.

Physicist Fred Alan Wolf gave a possible quantum explanation for the Mandela effect. He defined a difference between reality in our dreams. The reality during our waking hours. Woolf describes quantum physics as made up of probabilities, and actualities manifest out of those probabilities.

Wolf maintains that the collective unconscious manifests in our dreams and reflects what the entire planet as a whole is experiencing. Sometimes the Mandela effect is such strong that it overtakes reality. People remember a character from the movie gremlins as being named spike. The character was named stripe. But bending to the Mandela effect, in November 2016, a t-shirt featuring the character spike was released for sale.

Quantum immortality is the concept that the mind and consciousness will transport themselves to alternate realities when faced with imminent demise. This mind and conscious shift to an alternate reality are necessary to survive otherwise fatal events. In simple terms, as people die, consciousness transfers to an alternate reality where it gets to keep living.

Within that alternate reality, there are bound to be slight changes. This theory relies on the concept of infinite parallel universes. So, big and small, an alternate universe exists for every change you could imagine. Quantum immortality is truly horrifying, among other things. In the sense that every Mandela effect change you’ve ever experienced comes from you not existing originally in this reality.

This theory does bring some hope. If the quantum immortality theory is correct, then you would potentially never experience death. Your life would continue indefinitely. So as long as you ignore all the horror, quantum immortality doesn’t sound so bad.

Facts of Mandela effect

Mandela effect is one of the most common conspiracy theories. Conspiracy logically makes sense, but it is an imaginary or false memory like a hallucination. It is why all people get involved in cults and religious craziness. So, conspiracy theories are logical fallacies but non-prove abilities.

These logical and provable facts are only linked together by assumption. Or in other words, conspiracy theories only provide you with facts that prove the point they’re trying to make. Moreover, these facts are made in one particular way with no outside evidence. So there’s no way that it could not retrieve. Conspiracy theories are effectively well-written stories. The thing that’s so intriguing about them is why you can’t 100% prove them. You also can’t 100% disprove them.

It is the same as philosopher Bertrand Russell’s cosmic teapot theory, a comical but significant analogy. He states a flying teapot is orbiting around the galaxy between the Sun and the earth. You can’t tell it’s wrong! One great example of a super successful intellectual black hole is Scientology.

Neuroscience shows that every time we bring up a memory. It’s not returning to some magical, pure, unchanged, unedited memory in your brain. It’s re-remember the last time that you remembered that memory. So every time we remember something, it gets further away from the actual event. Because of this, we edit our memories every time we remember something.

Example of Mandela effect

A similar example of the Mandela effect is the canonization of Mother Teresa. People from different countries distinctly remember seeing Mother Teresa canonized during her lifetime. In reality, her canonization didn’t occur until September 4th, 2016, 19 years after her death.

On June 5th, 1989, during the Tiananmen Square protests in China, many people remember seeing the lone man who stood in front of the tanks rolling into the square be run over and killed. In actuality, that never happened.

Many people remember the color chartreuse. As a reddish-purple or magenta, the color chartreuse is yellowish-green. People remember the band Queen’s song ” We are the champions,” ending with no time for losers because we are the world’s champions. But its final lyric is no time for losers because we are the champions. Even the famous phrase from Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs isn’t safe from misremembering.

More Articles:


Gleaves, David H.; Smith, Steven M.; Butler. “False and Recovered Memories in the Laboratory and Clinic: A Review of Experimental and Clinical Evidence.” Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice.
Loftus, Elizabeth F.; Palmer, John. “Reconstruction of automobile destruction: An example of the interaction between language and memory.”

Julia Rose

My name is Julia Rose. I'm a registered clinical therapist, researcher, and coach. I'm the author of this blog. There are also two authors: Dr. Monica Ciagne, a registered psychologist and motivational coach, and Douglas Jones, a university lecturer & science researcher. I would love to hear your opinion, question, suggestions, please let me know. We will try to help you.

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