If you remember watching news broadcasts that Nelson Mandela had died in prison, this article will be of interest to you. If not, read on to know the fascinating truth behind these telecasts! The interesting name behind the said effect arises from an event that took place in the early 1980s. Thousands of people recall hearing the news of Mandela’s death in prison. The problem with that memory is that it never happened; Mandela died in 2013.
In 2010 the phenomenon of collective false memory was dubbed the “Mandela Effect” by self-described “paranormal consultant” Fiona Broome. In reference to the peculiar phenomenon, she says “See, I thought Nelson Mandela died in prison. I thought I remembered it clearly, complete with news clips of his funeral, the mourning in South Africa, some rioting in cities, and the heartfelt speech by his widow. Then, I found out he was still alive.”
Now that is a bit strange isn’t it? Quite scary even. However, a lot of theories have been hypothesized in the light of this intriguing event. To put things into a simpler perspective, consider that every time you remember a memory, you’re rewriting that memory. Over time, a single memory gets rewritten many, many times. This establishes a concrete standing for that memory in your brain. Interestingly though, some conspiracy theorists believe that people are picking up memories from different timelines, or alternate universes. While the theory certainly pushes you towards an interesting avenue, it is still considered to be a case of “imagination let wild” than being a proposition with a factual backing.
Where is the Science?
False memories occur in a number of ways. For instance, the Deese-Roediger-McDermott paradigm demonstrates how learning a list of words that contain closely related items – such as “bed” and “pillow” – produces false recognition of related, but non-presented words – such as “sleep”.
Memory inaccuracy can also arise from what’s known as “source monitoring errors”. These are instances where people fail to distinguish between real and imagined events. US professor of psychology Jim Coan demonstrated how easily this can happen using the “lost in the mall” procedure.
This procedure involved Coan giving his family members short narratives describing childhood events. One such “memory” about his brother getting lost in a shopping mall was invented. Not only did Coan’s brother believe that the event had occurred, he also added additional details to the invented scenario. When cognitive psychologist and expert on human memory Elizabeth Loftus applied the technique to larger samples, 25 per cent of participants failed to recognize the event was false.
Mandela effect is also largely attributed to so-called “schema-driven errors”. Schemas are organised “packets” of knowledge that direct memory. In this way, schemas facilitate understanding of material, but can produce distortion. Frederic Bartlett demonstrated this process in his 1932 book Remembering. Barlett read the Canadian Indian folk tale War of the Ghosts to participants. He found that listeners omitted unfamiliar details and transformed information to make it more understandable. This process is called “effort after meaning” and occurs in real world situations too.
Similar false memories include one such memory where people believed that the name of the Berenstain Bears was once spelled Berenstein. Other examples of the Mandela effect are the mistaken belief that Uncle Pennybags (Monopoly man) wears a monocle, and that the product title KitKat contains a hyphen (Kit-Kat).
Is it just the mind playing games or is it an indication of the multiverse? While the idea of parallel universes is consistent with the work of quantum physicists, we can only rely on the exploration of the other possibilities until such a theory is firmly established. It is now, however, the time to question whether some of your memories happened at all!