Mandela Effect Theory: The Origin, The Causes and Its Relevance Today

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The Mandela Effect, also known as the Berenstain Bears Conspiracy, refers to a unique phenomenon whereby an individual or large group of people recall events or concepts that either never happened or occurred in a different way from what they remember. Theorists led by Fiona Broome try to explain these same false memories, sighting that there may be an alternate universe causing it. Likewise, medical professionals quote this misremembering of events when illustrating how human memory is often imperfect. In this article, we will explore the mystery behind the Mandela Effect theory.

The Origin of the Mandela Effect Theory

Fiona Broome, a paranormal researcher, came up with the term “the Mandela Effect” in 2009. According to her, it is a theory that describes the situation whereby her recollection of the death of the former South Africa president Nelson Mandela was incorrect. Here, Broome had published a website detailing how Mandela allegedly died on Robben Island in the 1980s. She even went ahead and mentioned the solemn speech from Mandela’s widow, plus the riots that rocked South Africa due to this news.

In reality, Nelson Mandela was alive and well but still in prison. He was eventually set free and became the first post-apartheid president of South Africa, ruling between 1994 and 1999. Later, this former president passed away in 2013. However, what makes Broome’s recollection unique is that she wasn’t the only one with these false memories. Broome would later interview and quote at least 500 other people with the same recollection. How was it possible that so many people could share these same false memories?

What Causes the Mandela Effect?

Broome gives several explanations for the Mandela effect theory. First, she attributes this phenomenon to the many worlds’ interpretations of quantum mechanics. If a nearly infinite number of parallel universes exist, then there could be a world where these false memories are correct. Hence, our memories could be crossing paths with some recollections from these parallel universes. 

Secondly, it could be a sign that our world is a simulation, and there is some glitch in that simulation. Other explanations attribute the Mandela effect to changes in our history as time travelers try to prevent paradoxes. 

What Does Psychology Have to Say About the Mandela Effect Theory?

We misremember historical facts or events due to how our brains store memories over time. We also experience events differently, depending on our unique circumstances and backgrounds. Steve Ramirez, a Harvard neuroscientist, says that our brains store the sound, smell, or moods associated with our memories in the hippocampus.

Next, the brain uses this information to reconstruct the past, to create an image of our future selves. This reconstruction includes re-modification of some of the original bits of information, resulting in skewed memories. 

Indeed, whenever there are gaps in our memories, our brains fill in this void by falsifying information, a process known as confabulation. When this dialogue relating to a particular event or historical fact affects the masses, it results in many people misremembering the same thing in the same way. It is the Mandela Effect. 


There are lots of examples of the Mandela Effect in death dates, logos, how movie characters look, and lines in famous movies. Here are some of the notable examples: –

#1: The Star Wars Line “Luke, I am Your Father”

In Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, many fans believe that Darth Vader says, “Luke, I am your father.” The actual line is “No, I am your father. “, preceding a question. Yet, millions of Star Wars merchandise are on sale with this wrong line. 

#2: “The Berenstain Bears” Children’s Books

Do you recall reading the Berenstain Bears children’s books or watching its movie series as a child? Did you spell it as The Berenstein Bears, not The Berenstain Bears? You are not alone. Yet, this also is another same false memo.

#3: Monalisa’s Smile

Most of us are sure that Mona Lisa, the famous painting by Da Vinci, shows a female portrait with a smile. In reality, Mona Lisa appears emotionless. Only, her facial expression seems to change depending on what angle you view the painting. 

#4: KitKat Chocolate Company Logo

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Did you know that KitKat had a hyphen? Yap! The correct way to spell it is Kit-Kat. These same false memories influenced the chocolate brand to change the logo and remove the hyphen.

#5: Looney Tunes vs. Looney Toons Logo

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Is it Looney Tunes or Looney Toons? Many of us would swear that it is with “Toons” for cartoons. Yet, the correct spelling is and has always been Looney Tunes. 

#6: Pikachu

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Many people recall the pokemon Pikachu as having a black end on his tail. However, it was all yellow. 

#7: The Tank Man

What happened to the famous protester dabbed the “Tank Man” at the Tiananmen Square in Beijing on June 5, 1989? Well, if you are sure this unidentified protester died by being run over by the column of tanks, you are wrong. And so are thousands of other people holding the same false memories. Video footage shows two figures in blue pulling the protester aside. They disappear into the nearby crowd, letting the trucks proceed. 

#8: The Monopoly Man doesn’t have a monocle

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Do you remember the Monopoly Man having a monocle? Well, you are not alone! There are a number of concerned people who can’t seem to grasp how the Monopoly Man is monocle-less, when they’ve distinctly remembered him wearing one.

What is the Relevance of the Mandela Effect Theory Today?

In today’s world of social media and real-time news updates, it is common to see the Mandela effect in action. See, one group of people may misremember events and facts. Then, they confirm their biases by sharing their opinions with others through technology and the media. And, when such misinformation goes viral through memes or simulations of reality via games, the false memories take on a life of their own.

The Bottom Line

There are hundreds to thousands of examples of the Mandela effect across entertainment, logos, and even geography. Reading these examples can make you question your memory.

Is the Mandela Effect proof that whoever is in charge of our “simulation” is changing the past? Or, is this evidence of parallel universes and some individuals have crossed from one universe, in which Mandela died in the ’80s, into ours, where he lived to age 95? Each of these theories has its supporters and proof that it can be true.

According to psychologists, when we share the same false memories with other people, we think we are sliding into and out of a parallel dimension of the universe. Yet, the Mandela effect stems from a psychological aspect, not a fictional or supernatural happening. By looking at the Mandela Effect theory from a psychological point of view, we appreciate how our brains can play tricks on us and make us question our reality. Moreover, you may discover that your recollection of certain events of historical facts has been wrong the whole time.