The Mandela Effect And Why It Matters In Business

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.

Mandela EffectThe Mandela Effect is a phenomenon in which a large group of people collectively misremember specific details or events, believing them to be different from historical records or facts. It’s named after the belief that Nelson Mandela died in prison in the 1980s, while he actually became South Africa’s president and was released from prison in the 1990s.
ExamplesCommon examples of the Mandela Effect include the spelling of brand names (e.g., “Berenstain Bears” vs. “Berenstein Bears”), the placement of a dash in the “Kit-Kat” brand, and the number of U.S. states (some remember 51 or 52). False collective memories about movie quotes, logos, and geography are also cited as instances.
CausesThe causes of the Mandela Effect are debated. Some attribute it to memory errors, while others suggest it could be due to social reinforcement (when people repeat the same incorrect information), cognitive biases, or even alternate realities or parallel universes, though the latter is more speculative and not scientifically proven.
Memory and BrainHuman memory is not infallible and can be influenced by various factors, such as suggestion, cultural influence, and confirmation bias. The brain sometimes fills in gaps with what it believes should be true, leading to discrepancies between individual recollections and objective reality.
Internet and MediaThe spread of the Mandela Effect is often amplified by the internet and media. Social media platforms and online communities provide a space for people to share and discuss their shared false memories, reinforcing the perception that many individuals remember the same incorrect details.
Pop CultureThe Mandela Effect has gained prominence in pop culture, with documentaries, articles, and discussions exploring various instances and theories behind the phenomenon. It continues to be a topic of fascination and debate, reflecting the complex relationship between human memory, perception, and reality.
Scientific StudyWhile the Mandela Effect is intriguing, it primarily exists in the realm of popular culture and psychology. There is limited scientific research on the phenomenon, and it remains a subject of interest for psychologists and cognitive scientists studying the fallibility of human memory and the power of suggestion.
ConclusionThe Mandela Effect is a phenomenon where shared collective memories do not align with historical facts. It is often attributed to memory errors and social reinforcement. While it has captured public interest and is frequently discussed in popular culture, it remains a subject for further study in psychology and cognitive science to understand the intricacies of human memory and perception.

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.

False memories

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.

Monopoly Man

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. 

Tank man 

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.

Froot Loops

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.

Kit Kat

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.

Jif has been the largest such brand in the United States since 1981, but consumers believe the brand is called “Jiffy”.

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.

The company was even referenced as “Sketchers” in this 2015 TheStreet article about whether it could double its business over the next five years. 

Oscar Mayer

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”.

This example of the Mandela effect can be attributed to the way the company pronounced the brand with an “a” sound in its marketing campaigns.

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.

Key takeaways

  • 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.

Key Highlights

  • 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

Convergent vs. Divergent Thinking

Convergent thinking occurs when the solution to a problem can be found by applying established rules and logical reasoning. Whereas divergent thinking is an unstructured problem-solving method where participants are encouraged to develop many innovative ideas or solutions to a given problem. Where convergent thinking might work for larger, mature organizations where divergent thinking is more suited for startups and innovative companies.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking involves analyzing observations, facts, evidence, and arguments to form a judgment about what someone reads, hears, says, or writes.


The concept of cognitive biases was introduced and popularized by the work of Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman in 1972. Biases are seen as systematic errors and flaws that make humans deviate from the standards of rationality, thus making us inept at making good decisions under uncertainty.

Second-Order Thinking

Second-order thinking is a means of assessing the implications of our decisions by considering future consequences. Second-order thinking is a mental model that considers all future possibilities. It encourages individuals to think outside of the box so that they can prepare for every and eventuality. It also discourages the tendency for individuals to default to the most obvious choice.

Lateral Thinking

Lateral thinking is a business strategy that involves approaching a problem from a different direction. The strategy attempts to remove traditionally formulaic and routine approaches to problem-solving by advocating creative thinking, therefore finding unconventional ways to solve a known problem. This sort of non-linear approach to problem-solving, can at times, create a big impact.

Bounded Rationality

Bounded rationality is a concept attributed to Herbert Simon, an economist and political scientist interested in decision-making and how we make decisions in the real world. In fact, he believed that rather than optimizing (which was the mainstream view in the past decades) humans follow what he called satisficing.

Dunning-Kruger Effect

The Dunning-Kruger effect describes a cognitive bias where people with low ability in a task overestimate their ability to perform that task well. Consumers or businesses that do not possess the requisite knowledge make bad decisions. What’s more, knowledge gaps prevent the person or business from seeing their mistakes.

Occam’s Razor

Occam’s Razor states that one should not increase (beyond reason) the number of entities required to explain anything. All things being equal, the simplest solution is often the best one. The principle is attributed to 14th-century English theologian William of Ockham.

Lindy Effect

The Lindy Effect is a theory about the ageing of non-perishable things, like technology or ideas. Popularized by author Nicholas Nassim Taleb, the Lindy Effect states that non-perishable things like technology age – linearly – in reverse. Therefore, the older an idea or a technology, the same will be its life expectancy.


Antifragility was first coined as a term by author, and options trader Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Antifragility is a characteristic of systems that thrive as a result of stressors, volatility, and randomness. Therefore, Antifragile is the opposite of fragile. Where a fragile thing breaks up to volatility; a robust thing resists volatility. An antifragile thing gets stronger from volatility (provided the level of stressors and randomness doesn’t pass a certain threshold).


Ergodicity is one of the most important concepts in statistics. Ergodicity is a mathematical concept suggesting that a point of a moving system will eventually visit all parts of the space the system moves in. On the opposite side, non-ergodic means that a system doesn’t visit all the possible parts, as there are absorbing barriers

Systems Thinking

Systems thinking is a holistic means of investigating the factors and interactions that could contribute to a potential outcome. It is about thinking non-linearly, and understanding the second-order consequences of actions and input into the system.

Vertical Thinking

Vertical thinking, on the other hand, is a problem-solving approach that favors a selective, analytical, structured, and sequential mindset. The focus of vertical thinking is to arrive at a reasoned, defined solution.

Metaphorical Thinking

Metaphorical thinking describes a mental process in which comparisons are made between qualities of objects usually considered to be separate classifications.  Metaphorical thinking is a mental process connecting two different universes of meaning and is the result of the mind looking for similarities.

Maslow’s Hammer

Maslow’s Hammer, otherwise known as the law of the instrument or the Einstellung effect, is a cognitive bias causing an over-reliance on a familiar tool. This can be expressed as the tendency to overuse a known tool (perhaps a hammer) to solve issues that might require a different tool. This problem is persistent in the business world where perhaps known tools or frameworks might be used in the wrong context (like business plans used as planning tools instead of only investors’ pitches).

Peter Principle

The Peter Principle was first described by Canadian sociologist Lawrence J. Peter in his 1969 book The Peter Principle. The Peter Principle states that people are continually promoted within an organization until they reach their level of incompetence.

Straw Man Fallacy

The straw man fallacy describes an argument that misrepresents an opponent’s stance to make rebuttal more convenient. The straw man fallacy is a type of informal logical fallacy, defined as a flaw in the structure of an argument that renders it invalid.

Google Effect

The Google effect is a tendency for individuals to forget information that is readily available through search engines. During the Google effect – sometimes called digital amnesia – individuals have an excessive reliance on digital information as a form of memory recall.

Streisand Effect

The Streisand Effect is a paradoxical phenomenon where the act of suppressing information to reduce visibility causes it to become more visible. In 2003, Streisand attempted to suppress aerial photographs of her Californian home by suing photographer Kenneth Adelman for an invasion of privacy. Adelman, who Streisand assumed was paparazzi, was instead taking photographs to document and study coastal erosion. In her quest for more privacy, Streisand’s efforts had the opposite effect.

Compromise Effect

Single-attribute choices – such as choosing the apartment with the lowest rent – are relatively simple. However, most of the decisions consumers make are based on multiple attributes which complicate the decision-making process. The compromise effect states that a consumer is more likely to choose the middle option of a set of products over more extreme options.

Butterfly Effect

In business, the butterfly effect describes the phenomenon where the simplest actions yield the largest rewards. The butterfly effect was coined by meteorologist Edward Lorenz in 1960 and as a result, it is most often associated with weather in pop culture. Lorenz noted that the small action of a butterfly fluttering its wings had the potential to cause progressively larger actions resulting in a typhoon.

IKEA Effect

The IKEA effect is a cognitive bias that describes consumers’ tendency to value something more if they have made it themselves. That is why brands often use the IKEA effect to have customizations for final products, as they help the consumer relate to it more and therefore appending to it more value.

Ringelmann Effect 

Ringelmann Effect
The Ringelmann effect describes the tendency for individuals within a group to become less productive as the group size increases.

The Overview Effect

The overview effect is a cognitive shift reported by some astronauts when they look back at the Earth from space. The shift occurs because of the impressive visual spectacle of the Earth and tends to be characterized by a state of awe and increased self-transcendence.

House Money Effect

The house money effect was first described by researchers Richard Thaler and Eric Johnson in a 1990 study entitled Gambling with the House Money and Trying to Break Even: The Effects of Prior Outcomes on Risky Choice. The house money effect is a cognitive bias where investors take higher risks on reinvested capital than they would on an initial investment.


As highlighted by German psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer in the paper “Heuristic Decision Making,” the term heuristic is of Greek origin, meaning “serving to find out or discover.” More precisely, a heuristic is a fast and accurate way to make decisions in the real world, which is driven by uncertainty.

Recognition Heuristic

The recognition heuristic is a psychological model of judgment and decision making. It is part of a suite of simple and economical heuristics proposed by psychologists Daniel Goldstein and Gerd Gigerenzer. The recognition heuristic argues that inferences are made about an object based on whether it is recognized or not.

Representativeness Heuristic

The representativeness heuristic was first described by psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. The representativeness heuristic judges the probability of an event according to the degree to which that event resembles a broader class. When queried, most will choose the first option because the description of John matches the stereotype we may hold for an archaeologist.

Take-The-Best Heuristic

The take-the-best heuristic is a decision-making shortcut that helps an individual choose between several alternatives. The take-the-best (TTB) heuristic decides between two or more alternatives based on a single good attribute, otherwise known as a cue. In the process, less desirable attributes are ignored.

Bundling Bias

The bundling bias is a cognitive bias in e-commerce where a consumer tends not to use all of the products bought as a group, or bundle. Bundling occurs when individual products or services are sold together as a bundle. Common examples are tickets and experiences. The bundling bias dictates that consumers are less likely to use each item in the bundle. This means that the value of the bundle and indeed the value of each item in the bundle is decreased.

Barnum Effect

The Barnum Effect is a cognitive bias where individuals believe that generic information – which applies to most people – is specifically tailored for themselves.

Anchoring Effect

The anchoring effect describes the human tendency to rely on an initial piece of information (the “anchor”) to make subsequent judgments or decisions. Price anchoring, then, is the process of establishing a price point that customers can reference when making a buying decision.

Decoy Effect

The decoy effect is a psychological phenomenon where inferior – or decoy – options influence consumer preferences. Businesses use the decoy effect to nudge potential customers toward the desired target product. The decoy effect is staged by placing a competitor product and a decoy product, which is primarily used to nudge the customer toward the target product.

Commitment Bias

Commitment bias describes the tendency of an individual to remain committed to past behaviors – even if they result in undesirable outcomes. The bias is particularly pronounced when such behaviors are performed publicly. Commitment bias is also known as escalation of commitment.

First-Principles Thinking

First-principles thinking – sometimes called reasoning from first principles – is used to reverse-engineer complex problems and encourage creativity. It involves breaking down problems into basic elements and reassembling them from the ground up. Elon Musk is among the strongest proponents of this way of thinking.

Ladder Of Inference

The ladder of inference is a conscious or subconscious thinking process where an individual moves from a fact to a decision or action. The ladder of inference was created by academic Chris Argyris to illustrate how people form and then use mental models to make decisions.

Goodhart’s Law

Goodhart’s Law is named after British monetary policy theorist and economist Charles Goodhart. Speaking at a conference in Sydney in 1975, Goodhart said that “any observed statistical regularity will tend to collapse once pressure is placed upon it for control purposes.” Goodhart’s Law states that when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.

Six Thinking Hats Model

The Six Thinking Hats model was created by psychologist Edward de Bono in 1986, who noted that personality type was a key driver of how people approached problem-solving. For example, optimists view situations differently from pessimists. Analytical individuals may generate ideas that a more emotional person would not, and vice versa.

Mandela Effect

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.

Crowding-Out Effect

The crowding-out effect occurs when public sector spending reduces spending in the private sector.

Bandwagon Effect

The bandwagon effect tells us that the more a belief or idea has been adopted by more people within a group, the more the individual adoption of that idea might increase within the same group. This is the psychological effect that leads to herd mentality. What in marketing can be associated with social proof.

Moore’s Law

Moore’s law states that the number of transistors on a microchip doubles approximately every two years. This observation was made by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore in 1965 and it become a guiding principle for the semiconductor industry and has had far-reaching implications for technology as a whole.

Disruptive Innovation

Disruptive innovation as a term was first described by Clayton M. Christensen, an American academic and business consultant whom The Economist called “the most influential management thinker of his time.” Disruptive innovation describes the process by which a product or service takes hold at the bottom of a market and eventually displaces established competitors, products, firms, or alliances.

Value Migration

Value migration was first described by author Adrian Slywotzky in his 1996 book Value Migration – How to Think Several Moves Ahead of the Competition. Value migration is the transferal of value-creating forces from outdated business models to something better able to satisfy consumer demands.

Bye-Now Effect

The bye-now effect describes the tendency for consumers to think of the word “buy” when they read the word “bye”. In a study that tracked diners at a name-your-own-price restaurant, each diner was asked to read one of two phrases before ordering their meal. The first phrase, “so long”, resulted in diners paying an average of $32 per meal. But when diners recited the phrase “bye bye” before ordering, the average price per meal rose to $45.


Groupthink occurs when well-intentioned individuals make non-optimal or irrational decisions based on a belief that dissent is impossible or on a motivation to conform. Groupthink occurs when members of a group reach a consensus without critical reasoning or evaluation of the alternatives and their consequences.


A stereotype is a fixed and over-generalized belief about a particular group or class of people. These beliefs are based on the false assumption that certain characteristics are common to every individual residing in that group. Many stereotypes have a long and sometimes controversial history and are a direct consequence of various political, social, or economic events. Stereotyping is the process of making assumptions about a person or group of people based on various attributes, including gender, race, religion, or physical traits.

Murphy’s Law

Murphy’s Law states that if anything can go wrong, it will go wrong. Murphy’s Law was named after aerospace engineer Edward A. Murphy. During his time working at Edwards Air Force Base in 1949, Murphy cursed a technician who had improperly wired an electrical component and said, “If there is any way to do it wrong, he’ll find it.”

Law of Unintended Consequences

The law of unintended consequences was first mentioned by British philosopher John Locke when writing to parliament about the unintended effects of interest rate rises. However, it was popularized in 1936 by American sociologist Robert K. Merton who looked at unexpected, unanticipated, and unintended consequences and their impact on society.

Fundamental Attribution Error

Fundamental attribution error is a bias people display when judging the behavior of others. The tendency is to over-emphasize personal characteristics and under-emphasize environmental and situational factors.

Outcome Bias

Outcome bias describes a tendency to evaluate a decision based on its outcome and not on the process by which the decision was reached. In other words, the quality of a decision is only determined once the outcome is known. Outcome bias occurs when a decision is based on the outcome of previous events without regard for how those events developed.

Hindsight Bias

Hindsight bias is the tendency for people to perceive past events as more predictable than they actually were. The result of a presidential election, for example, seems more obvious when the winner is announced. The same can also be said for the avid sports fan who predicted the correct outcome of a match regardless of whether their team won or lost. Hindsight bias, therefore, is the tendency for an individual to convince themselves that they accurately predicted an event before it happened.

Read Next: BiasesBounded RationalityMandela EffectDunning-Kruger EffectLindy EffectCrowding Out EffectBandwagon Effect.

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