Remembering Something That Didn’t Happen
There are many mysteries in the world.
Some ancient ones, some we haven’t even discovered yet, but the one thing that’s true about all of them is that they make for fascinating stories and questions.
Here we explain a phenomenon you may have experienced without even realizing it.
It is called the “Mandela effect” and is one of the world's mysteries, still visible today.
Origins And Examples
The Mandela Effect is the situation in which multiple people believe something has happened when in reality, it hasn’t.
This strange occurrence of mass misconception can be seen in as few as two people and as many as thousands.
The term itself was first coined in 2009 and carried the name of the famous African president Nelson Mandela.
A woman shared her belief that he had died in the 1980s in prison, and she found that a very large group of people believed the same.
They all had identical memories of the tragic event being covered in the news as well as his wife’s speech.
However, this never happened, and at the time, Nelson Mandela was very much alive.
After she shared what she had found, many more examples of similar misconceptions surfaced.
As it turns out, people often confuse the spelling or wording of famous people’s names or art.
For instance, you may think that the famous line from Snow White is “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” however, the original starts with “Magic mirror on the wall” instead.
A different example is the spelling of the Berenstain Bears - some people are sure that the first word has an “e” instead of an “a.”
Perhaps one of the weirder phenomena, however, is that a large group of people are sure that New Zealand is located northeast of Australia instead of southeast.
It turns out that something as big as an entire landmass isn’t safe from being misremembered.
Possible Explanations And Theories
So, how and why does this happen?
The creation and usage of false memories are likely what causes the Mandela Effect.
How this works is rather complicated, but we will try to explain it briefly here.
The storing and retrieving of memories similar to each other happens in relatively the same place in the brain.
The “storage space” for a set of similar memories (like the names of different rivers and lakes) is called the schema, and it works by creating groups of information that are somehow linked.
So when we try to remember the specific name of a river, for example, we work with relatively the same neurons as those connected with the names of lakes.
This is why we may confuse the two without ever considering it - because they are so similar, we virtually make no difference between the two.
In the case of Berenstein or Berenstain, our brains might just make the deduction that it is spelled in a first way because it looks more organic or because there are many other words with that suffix.
Another important fact is that when memories are recalled instead of reestablished perfectly, they are more easily changed.
Hence the more we misremember something, the more likely it is that we will continue to do so.
As a bonus, it has been shown that our brains tend to go through a process called confabulation.
This is the scientific term for when we fill in blanks from our memories to make more sense of them.
For instance, if we try to recall a trip from 20 years ago, we will likely remember the time spent there instead of the road itself.
Sometimes our brains fill in these gaps with the most likely option.
In this case for instance we might remember that we traveled by car, even though it was actually a bus, simply if we usually travel with one over the other.
Our brains consider the probability of certain possible facts, and if we don’t have a specific memory, they tend to go for the option, most likely even if it isn’t actually true.
Another important detail we should mention is the process known as “priming.”
This is the difference between asking, “Did you see the black cat?” and “Did you see a cat?”.
When we hear the first question, we will subconsciously try to prove that all of the information is correct, while with the second, this is not the case.
Therefore we might answer “Yes.” to the first one even though the cat we actually saw was orange.
So what exactly is the Mandela Effect?
It is the phenomenon of the false collective memories of a group of people.
It can occur with seemingly anything - from letters and numbers to facts about events and people.
There is no definite and concise explanation for why this occurs. However, it is most likely a mix of a few mechanisms in our psychology.
Regardless of what the Mandela Effect reaches, however, it is still a fascinating occurrence, reminding us that our memory is far from perfect.