The Mandela Effect and false memories

The Mandela Effect and false memories

Many are the theories and speculations that are had regarding what is known as the Mandela effect. However, beyond mysticisms or convoluted theories, the truth is that can be explained from the field of psychology. Go for it.


  • 1 Where does what is known as the Mandela effect come from?
  • 2 Other examples of the Mandela effect
  • 3 Why does the Mandela effect occur?

Where does what is known as the Mandela effect come from?

As its own name indicates, the Mandela effect takes its name from the first South African president of color, a symbol of freedom and rights in his country at that time and still remains in the memory of many citizens worldwide.

Nelson Mandela died as a result of a respiratory infection on December 5, 2013. However, this fact seemed to surprise a large percentage of the world's population. What is this about?

The truth is that many people of all nationalities and age ranges were very surprised at the news of the death of Nelson Mandela. What was the reason? Neither more nor less, his confusion and surprise was because they thought that Mandela had died several years ago.

And we are not talking about a few uninformed people in a country that does not reach communications. The phenomenon of the surprise of Mandela's death was massive. Many felt his death, but more were those who were surprised to remember the death and funeral of Mandela for years.

Although the Mandela effect took its famous name at that time, the truth is that previously the same phenomenon had already happened with other public personalities or events that would be marked in the memory of many citizens.

It was named that way by the researcher Fiona Broome, since she thought she remembered the death of the former South African president and the events that followed after many years ago.

Thus, it is very possible that you have spoken with more than one person about a specific event and you remember very vividly everything that happened with all kinds of details. However, this may not have been entirely so. Without knowing it, you may also have been a victim of the Mandela effect.

Other examples of the Mandela effect

As we already mentioned, the first Mandela effect in history is not this, but it has previously happened in a very similar way, but in the same way with a massive number of people, as is the case with the Tiananmen Massacre.

And, many citizens could assure you how they saw the news of a battle tank going over and ending the life of a Chinese citizen in the summer of 1989. Although, once again, this fact would never occur.

Something very similar happened with the death of Mohamed Ali, after which we can see numerous similarities with the phenomenon that gave rise to the name of this effect. Well, as with Nelson Mandela, many people received with great surprise the death of Ali claiming that he had already been dead for several years.

It is not necessary more than a brief search on the Internet to realize the scope of this type of phenomenon, which many have listed as part of numerous conspiracies and convoluted theories.

Do you remember the movie Matrix? Well, there is a certain sector that ensures that our reality is programmed and that from time to time there are modifications by which it is altered. Thus, according to their arguments, there would be changes in our memory, as if they were hard drives.

However, the most widespread theory for the explanation of this phenomenon has to do with the Parallel universes. In other words, in one or several universes the death of Nelson Mandela may have occurred but in others not.

And so, there would be interference between both universes, resulting in confusion and discredit when news is received that in another universe would be true, but not in each one. However, the truth is that the Mandela effect does have an explanation from the psychological point of view.

Why does the Mandela effect occur?

The explanation for the phenomenon lies in memory distortions. Since it is very normal to fill in the gaps we need to reconstruct stories with new elements or simply that our beliefs, attitudes or thoughts interfere.

It is not necessarily an indication of dementia or any other mental health disorder. What happens is that our mind conspires or is suggested by other memories, perceptions or beliefs of others. Thus, sometimes it is not about our own idea, but about what other people have induced in us.

Our brain needs to find the logic for its proper functioning.. Hence, resort to this type of mechanisms to form a solid history and explanations for everything that happens to us.

So if you've ever been surprised by an event that you thought had already happened, don't blame any pathology or other people who could help you without knowing how to form that belief. Surely, you will experience some other Mandela effect throughout your life.


Danna M Challies, Maree Hunt, Maryanne Garry and David N Harper. What gave you that idea? False memories after equivalence training: a description of the behavior of the misinformation effect. Journal of the experimental analysis of Behavior. 2011 nov; 96 (3): 343-362.

Eakin DK, Schreiber TA, Sergent-Marshall S. Effects of misinformation on the memory of eyewitnesses: The presence and absence of memory impairment depending on the warning and the accessibility of erroneous information. Journal of experimental psychology: learning, memory and cognition. 2003