The Mandela effect is a phenomenon where a large group of people remembers an event differently from how it occurred. The Mandela effect was first described in relation to Fiona Broome, who believed that former South African President Nelson Mandela died in prison during the 1980s. While Mandela was released from prison in 1990 and died 23 years later, Broome remembered news coverage of his death in prison and even a speech from his widow. Of course, neither event occurred in reality. But Broome was later to discover that she was not the only one with the same recollection of events.
Causes of the Mandela effect
Opinion is divided on the exact cause of the Mandela effect, but some doctors believe it is a form of confabulation – or “honest lying”.
Here, a person creates a false memory to fill in gaps in their memory. They are not, as some believe, creating memories to lie or deceive.
Some researchers posit that individuals use confabulation to piece together what they believe is the most likely sequence of events. This is because the events described in many Mandela effect cases are quite close to what actually transpired.
A simpler explanation for the effect lies in a person’s inability to remember events accurately.
This may occur when facts become distorted because of the passage of time. Crime eyewitnesses are often unable to recall certain subtle details of a crime, which may lead to gap-filling.
The “memefication” of the internet is also a contributor. Users are free to alter sayings, logos, or images and then harness the ability of the internet to spread misinformation rapidly.
Examples of the Mandela effect
The frowning Mona Lisa
Many art admirers insist that the subject of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting is frowning, even though she is clearly smirking.
Researchers believe that the tendency for artworks of that period to feature frowning subjects has led people to form inaccurate memories.
The mascot of the popular board game Monopoly is often thought to be wearing a monocle.
Upon closer inspection, however, the mascot is not wearing a monocle. It is thought that people confuse the Monopoly mascot with the Planters peanut company mascot, Mr. Peanut.
Life is like a box of chocolates
In the oft-quoted movie Forrest Gump, many assume that Tom Hanks utters the line “Life is like a box of chocolates.”
However, the actual line is “Life was like a box of chocolates.” Emphasis added.
During the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, it is sometimes assumed that the unidentified man who stands in front of a tank was run over and killed.
This is despite video evidence to the contrary showing the man being detained and led away from the scene after a brief confrontation.
The sugary breakfast cereal made by Kellogg’s first hit supermarket shelves in 1963. On the front of the box, four of the colorful circular cereal pieces were substituted for the letter “O” to spell the words “Froot Loops”.
However, despite the brand having been spelled this way for over 60 years, many consumers still believe it to be “Fruit Loops”.
Adding to the Mandela effect is the fact that the cereal is loaded with sugar and does not contain any fruit whatsoever.
The popular Nestlé chocolate bar brand has never been spelled “Kit-Kat” with a dash.
It was named the Kit Kat Chocolate Crisp by original owner Rowntree’s in 1937 and was then shortened to Kit Kat after the Second World War.
When Nestlé acquired Rowntree’s in 1987, the name remain unchanged.
Jif peanut butter
Jif is an American peanut butter brand founded in 1956 that was purchased by multinational company Proctor & Gamble in 2001.
The Mandela effect in this case may stem from confusion caused by unrelated brands with a similar name.
One source of confusion could be Jiffy Pop popcorn, while another is the popular Jiffy brand of all-purpose baking mix.
There is also the potential that consumers are mixed up with the name of Jif’s main competitor, Skippy.
Coca-Cola Zero Sugar
Coca-Cola is one of the most recognizable brands in the world and has released numerous variations of its original cola-based beverage.
Many Coca-Cola fanatics believe that the company’s sugar-free cola drink is called “Coke Zero”. In actuality, every such drink is labeled as “Coca-Cola Zero Sugar” or “Coca-Cola Zero”.
There are two possible causes in this case. The first is that a small “Coke Zero” logo was printed on the back of the bottle where ingredients were listed.
The second is that the name was a sponsor of NASCAR and Daytona races in the United States, but “Coke Zero” was used in this case because it was recognizable to consumers.
Skechers is the third largest footwear company in America, but many add a “t” to the name and call it “Sketchers”.
This confusion likely arises because consumers default to someone who draws when they hear the brand name pronounced.
Oscar Mayer is an American company that manufactures a range of processed meats.
Founded in 1883 and acquired by Kraft Heinz around a century later, consumers for some reason think the brand is spelled “Oscar Meyer”.
To clear up the mispronunciation among consumers, Oscar Meyer even released an advertisement featuring a child who spelled out each letter of both words to a jingle.
Additional Case Studies
1. Berenstain Bears: Many people remember the popular children’s book series as the “Berenstein Bears” with an “e,” but they are actually called the “Berenstain Bears” with an “a.” This has led to numerous debates online about the correct spelling.
2. Location of New Zealand: There are many who swear that New Zealand used to be located northeast of Australia on maps, rather than southeast where it actually is.
3. Febreze: While many people believe the popular air freshener brand is spelled “Febreeze” with two “e”s, it’s actually spelled “Febreze” with one “e.”
4. Curious Jorge: A popular children’s character is the mischievous monkey, Curious George. However, many people remember him having a tail, which he doesn’t since he is a chimpanzee and not a monkey.
5. The Location of the Liver: Many people believe the liver is located on the left side of the human body when, in fact, it’s on the right side.
6. The Color of Chartreuse: A number of people believe that the color chartreuse is a shade of pink or rose. In reality, it’s a shade of green.
7. Pikachu’s Tail: Many fans of Pokémon remember Pikachu as having a black-tipped tail. However, in reality, Pikachu’s tail is plain yellow without any black tip.
8. C-3PO’s Leg: Many “Star Wars” fans remember the droid C-3PO as being entirely gold. But, if you look closely, he actually has one silver leg.
9. “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall”: One of the most quoted lines from Disney’s “Snow White” is often remembered as “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” In reality, the line is “Magic mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest one of all?”
10. The Ford Logo: Many remember the Ford logo without the curly loop on the ‘F’, but the logo has always had that little curl.
11. “We Are the Champions” by Queen: Many people believe the song ends with “…of the world!” However, the song doesn’t actually end that way, and the line is only present in the chorus, not at the end.
12. The Number of U.S. States: Some people outside of the U.S. recall learning there were 51 or 52 states in the United States, but there have always been 50.
- The Mandela effect refers to a scenario where a large group of people believes an event occurred when it did not.
- The Mandela effect may be caused by several factors. The most likely is the process of confabulation, where an individual harmlessly fabricates information to fill gaps in their memory.
- The Mandela effect was named after a mistaken belief that Nelson Mandela had died in prison. Today, the effect has been described in everything from movie lines to company mascots and world events.
- Definition: The Mandela effect is a phenomenon where a large group of people remembers an event differently from how it actually occurred.
- Example: The Mandela effect was first described in relation to Fiona Broome, who believed Nelson Mandela died in prison during the 1980s. In reality, Mandela was released in 1990 and died 23 years later.
- Causes: The exact cause of the Mandela effect is debated, but it may involve confabulation, where individuals create false memories to fill gaps in their recollection.
- False Memories: A simpler explanation is that people may misremember events due to the passage of time and distortion of facts.
- Internet Memefication: The internet’s ability to spread misinformation rapidly contributes to the Mandela effect as users alter sayings, logos, or images.
- Examples: Some examples of the Mandela effect include the belief that the Mona Lisa is frowning, confusion about the Monopoly Man wearing a monocle, and misquoting the line “Life is like a box of chocolates” from the movie Forrest Gump.
- Skechers and Oscar Mayer: Mandela effect instances can also be found in brand names, such as adding a “t” to Skechers or mispronouncing Oscar Mayer as “Oscar Meyer.”
- Coca-Cola Zero Sugar: Some consumers refer to Coca-Cola Zero Sugar as “Coke Zero,” but the actual name is “Coca-Cola Zero Sugar” or “Coca-Cola Zero.”
- Implications: The Mandela effect highlights how memories can be fallible and subject to distortion, leading to shared misconceptions among a group of people.
- Cultural Phenomenon: The Mandela effect has become a cultural phenomenon, and researchers continue to study its underlying causes and implications for memory and cognition.
Connected Thinking Frameworks