Named after the people who falsely believed South African legend Nelson Mandela died in 1980, the Mandela Effect is now an umbrella term used to describe any instance of collective false memory. Examples of the Mandela Effect abound in popular culture. People commonly misremember movie or TV show quotes, including “it’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood” from Mr. Rogers. Another example is the Berenstain Bears; many still believe the author’s name is spelled “Berenstein.” While most of these examples are innocent, they point to a deeper problem. People’s memories aren’t as trustworthy as they’d like to believe.
The causes of the Mandela Effect are a popular topic of speculation. Some people point to it as evidence of the multiverse, while others blame a government conspiracy. In the field of psychology, scientists believe the Mandela Effect is a combination of several related phenomena. An individual becomes convinced of the validity of false information, be it through confabulation, source-memory error, or imagination inflation. Then, when the duped individual passes their “knowledge” on to others, people in the group go along with it out of a need to conform even if they have doubts initially. Along the way, the group becomes convinced of a fact that ultimately isn’t true. Lies and rumors are 70% more likely to win out over factual information.
While collective misremembering has been a problem for a long time, some worry the Mandela Effect is becoming more common. Thanks to the widespread reach of the internet and advanced deep fake technology, misinformation is having an easier time spreading than ever. By the time the truth catches up to a story, it may have already traveled around the world and duped millions. Global psychologists have described the implications of this development as “legitimately worrisome.” No system-wide solution seems possible right now.
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