The term Mandela effect was coined by ‘Fiona Broome’, a famed conspiracy theorist and self-proclaimed ‘paranormal consultant’. According to her, ”Mandela effect is what happens when someone has a clear, personal memory of something that never happened in this reality”. It was discovered in 2010 when a lot of people on the internet discovered they shared a common “false memory” of Nelson Mandela’s death. The strange thing is many of them even remember watching the funeral on televisions and some even heard speech by the widow. But when these people got back and looked at it, it has all changed or is gone in this universe with no reason other than “its always been like that”. Another interesting fact is when this discussion was going on, Mandela was still alive. He passed away in 2013 after three years of this discussion. Mandela effect is known as a collection of false memories.
Many principles and explanations arose on this. Some of them are explained below:
Some believe time travellers came back in past to make some little changes that did affect the others. They say that in future, time travelling is possible and people from our future are going back to their pasts which is our present and making changes in them.
Some people believe that in the last decade or two, our world went through a black hole and our original world ended. Now we are in a parallel world where some things have changed during this switching process through the black hole. This theory came in when people thought the world was going to end in 2000 and or 2012.
According to quantum theory enthusiasts, the Mandela effect is the evidence for the existence of a parallel universe. This effect is also sometimes compared to deja vu in psychology. It is explained as a confabulation. Confabulation is an unintentional distortion of memory. Confabulated memories are associated with the brain’s frontal lobe and seem every bit as clear and detailed as they have actually happened. They cant be recognised as framed up or not intentionally created to deceive.
Memory accuracy also may arise from ‘source monitoring errors’. These are such situations or instances when people fail to distinguish between what is real and what are imaginary events.
Jim Coan, professor of psychology in the US demonstrated this effect with a “lost in the mall” procedure. As a part of this procedure, he narrated a short experience to his family members about his brother getting lost in a shopping mall. Not to mention, it was an invented story but the surprising fact is that, not only the family members believed, but his brother added additional details to it.
The human brain isn’t a recording device, that etches past events into mind. Memories can be altered. With time, as we re-remember them again and again, they get changed into different creations than what they were. When Elizabeth Loftus, a cognitive psychologist and expert on human memory applied this technique on a larger sample, she found that 25 per cent of them failed to recognise that the event was fake. She added that “in this way then, the majority of Mandela effects are attributable to memory errors and social misinformation. The fact that a lot of the inaccuracies are trivial, suggests they result from selective attention or faulty inference.”
Through her experiment, she discovered that memory is constructive and can be reconstructed by outside sources in time. In her another study, she asked participants to recall details of a simulated car crash. She asked two similar questions to all participants. One was “how fast were the cars going when they hit each other?” and the other was “how fast were the cars going when they smashed each other?” the participants asked the question with the word ‘hit’ assumed it was at normal speed but those who were told ‘smashed’, recalled that the car was faster. Here this word ‘smashed’ triggered them to remember a broken glass at the scene even when there wasn’t any.
She concluded one’s memory can be altered over time, causing contamination of past or distant memories. In the case of the Mandela effect, it’s probable that the false memories developed out of widespread misinformation.