The Mandela Effect is a term for where a group of people all mis-remember the same detail, event or physicality. It is named after the instance in which a large group of people all shared the same memory that Nelson Mandela died prior to his actual 2013 death, usually some time in the 1980’s. The effect exploded in popularity on the internet when a peculiar example popped up where a majority of people seemed to have recalled the Berenstain Bears books as being spelled as “Berenstein” or some other variation, differing from the actual spelling as presented by evidence.
The effect is somewhat different from a false memory as it effects large groups of people, seemingly without many connections and without the same emotional factors present. It also seems stronger and harder to escape the feeling that it’s simply a mis-remembering of a detail, which is why people are so adamant with claims of their memories. As such, it’s often been hinted at that the Mandela Effect is closely related to cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance can be mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds beliefs, ideas, or values and is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values. Please note the use of “can be” as there is many purists that don’t accept the broader definition and scope of cognitive dissonance applying to memory versus reality.
Many Mandela Effects are usually trivial details about an oddly specific set of categories. These include things such as the how and when of celebrity deaths, misspellings (usually replaced or removed letters), placement of geographical locations, quotations within media, or alternate imagery.
It is also related to misconceptions in general, although, again is differentiated due to the obscure nature and odd feelings resulting from learning the reality. The solutions, explanations and reasons for the misconceptions are also cryptic and often misrepresented or unknown altogether.
The term it fits most with is “confabulation” which is a disturbance of memory which produces fabricated, distorted, or misinterpreted memories about the world, without the explicit or conscious intention to deceive others. People who confabulate in this way produce incorrect memories about the most trivial details (as seen with most Mandela Effects) but range up to more complex fabrications as well. They are generally extremely confident in their recollections and will typically resist any contradictory evidence.
The aim of this site is unique among the current offerings online to attempt to dissect the possible causes and solutions for this perplexing phenomenon with a scientific, rational approach. If you’ve come to read about merging of universes, alternate timelines, and time travel then you are in the wrong place (unless you have evidence of such things!). It is of my opinion that the Mandela Effect is a real thing; however, steeped in the realm of sociology and psychology and not science fiction.
Listing of Mandela Effects explored on the site so far:
- Category: Mandela Effects
Related psychological and phenomenons (possible explanations/factors):
- Misinformation effect
- Confirmation bias
- Misattribution of memory
- List of common misconceptions
- False memory
- Cognitive dissonance
I dive into each of these on the Common Explanations page.