The Mandela Effect and False Memories

That tough-on-the-roof-of-your-mouth cereal was called Captain Crunch, right? That's how many of us remember it. But, it's actually called Cap'n Crunch. The collective misremembering of specific facts from our past phenomenon is called "The Mandela Effect."

Have you experienced the Mandela Effect? Have you ever misremembered something only to discover that many other people have the same false memory? You’re 100% certain it’s the way you remember it but still surprised to learn that you were wrong. And, you’re not the only one! Let’s dive deeper.

What is the Mandela Effect?

The term Mandela effect is the commonly used name for a sense of false memory. This psychological phenomenon makes a person recall an event or thing that actually never happened or happened differently. At the same time, many people remember many of the same details of the event. But such collective memories are different from what exists in newspaper archives and history books.

Such memory errors are considered to exceed the usual range of forgetfulness because mostly strangers seem to have similar memories with similar details. It is worth noting that this concept is different from ‘false memory syndrome. ‘False memory syndrome’ affects people at the individual level and interferes with their daily lives.

History of the Mandela Effect phenomenon

The concept was only addressed and acknowledged recently but it has been in existence, probably for as long as popular media exists or even before media existed.

Who popularized the expression?

The term was first used by paranormal consultant Fiona Broome at one of the conventions of Dragon Con in 2010. Broome is a paranormal researcher and author. She later launched a website and played an important role in popularizing the expression. She has explored different reasons for the effect – from parallel universes to an alternate reality.

Why Mandela?

The false memory phenomenon was referred to as ‘The Mandela Effect’ in 2010, with the topic being the death of the South African leader, Nelson Mandela. The first time this effect was recognized started with the finding that many people believed that Mandela died in the 1980s when he actually died in 2013. It was found that false memories were created due to similar factors present in different people’s lives. These factors included social reinforcement of incorrect memories and/or misleading news or photos.

Nelson Mandela image

Examples of the Mandela Effect

There are many examples of other cases that explain why people believe in the Mandela effect. Some of the most notable examples are as follows:

Berenstein Bears vs. Berenstain Bears

This is one of the most talked-about examples of the Mandela Effect. The Berenstain Bears is a widely popular animated TV show and children’s book series. A generation of people grew up watching or reading the series. And a significant percentage of them remember the title to be ‘The Berenstein Bears’ with ‘ein’ and not ‘ain.’ Many claims that the name of the ‘bears’ was changed over the years, which they were not.

Tiananmen Square: Boy crushed by tank vs. Boy stops the tank

A significant number of people have similar false memory when they remember the Tiananmen Square incident of the Tank Boy versus the Chinese tank. These people have a false, human memory of the tank running over the man. However, the fact is that the tank didn’t hit the ‘Tank Boy.’ The tank moved to the side, and the man kept blocking its path until members of the public removed him. The Mandela Effect in action!

Captain Crunch vs. Cap’n Crunch

Captain Crunch has been here since 1963. The breakfast cereal was always spelled as ‘Cap’n Crunch,’ but many people remember it to be spelled as ‘Captain Crunch.’ The company never changed the spelling, but the masses think that they did. Companies spend tens of millions to create a brand and make it popular. They would need a perfect reason to change it once it has become so popular. This general belief that the spelling was changed later is one of the perfect examples of the phenomenon.

Lindbergh Baby – Still a Mystery vs. Murderer Convicted

Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr. was 20 months old when he was kidnapped in 1932. A few months later, his body was found, and the killer was arrested and executed for the crime after a trial. However, the phenomenon creeps into this story, and many people remember different versions of the story. Some remember that the baby was never found, and this case continues to be a mystery. And then many people remember that the baby was found alive.

The effect in popular culture

Oscar Meyer vs. Oscar Mayer

When Americans think of hot dogs, they think of the brand Oscar Mayer. Oscar Mayer is a famous brand of hot dogs, lunch meats, and Lunchables products. The brand has been in existence since the late 19th century. It has been a classic example where many people remember it to be spelled ‘Meyer’ and not ‘Mayer.’ The confusion is also associated with the brand’s famous jingle that goes, “My bologna has a first name, it’s OSCAR, my bologna has a second name it’s MAYER.” Many people have a memory that the bologna has always been called ‘MEYER.’

Curious George – With Tail vs. No tail

Curious George is a popular children’s book series by H.A. Rey and Margaret Rey. The first story was published in the late 1930s. Many people remember Curious George, the chimp, to have a tail. However, the character never had a tail in the stories. This is considered another clear example where a significant percentage of those who read the story or watched the show or movie remember that the character had a tail.

This case is also an example of dual memories where many people think that they remember seeing the chimp character with tail and without it. This makes this case even more interesting.

Drug Enforcement Agency vs. Drug Enforcement Administration

The fight for legalizing marijuana continues to gain more ground and heat. And the DEA is at the center of this tussle between the supporters and the government. However, many people call the agency responsible for controlling drug use and implementing relevant laws the ‘Drug Enforcement Agency’ and not the ‘Drug Enforcement Administration. This is another example of a false memory that spans a large part of the population.

Christopher Reeves vs. Christopher Reeve

Remembering Christopher Reeve as ‘Christopher Reeves’ is another example of false memory. His BAFTA Award-winning role in Superman in 1978 brought widespread stardom to him. But a significant percentage of people remember him to be ‘Reeves’ and not ‘Reeve.’ Is this just the case of a simple memory lapse, or is something bigger at play?

In history

Here are some historic cases of the Mandela Effect playing out.

Casablanca line: “Play it again, Sam” vs. “Play it, Sam”

Casablanca (1942) is considered one of the greatest films of all time. As popular as the film is, there is a very high risk of being duped by this phenomenon. One of the most famous lines from the film is often misquoted because that is the way many people remember it to be. These viewers believe that Lisa Lund, played by the iconic Ingrid Bergman, uses the words ‘Play it again, Sam’ when she asks Dooley Wilson’s character to play ‘As Time Goes By.’ However, she never uses the word, ‘again’ in the famous scene. A great example of the Mandela effect.

Three More Incorrect Movie Lines

  1. Forrest Gump’s, “Life is like a box of chocolates.” Wrong: “Life was like a box of chocolates.”
  2. The silence of the Lamb’s, “Hello Clarice.” Wrong: “Good morning,” is all that Hannibal Lecter said.
  3. Star Wars, “Luke, I am your father.” Wrong: “No, I am your father,” is what actually was said.

Could care less vs. Couldn’t care less

The concept is prevalent not just in people’s memory of events and brands but also in language and how words are used. Many people are certain that the right term to use is ‘could care less when the correct term is ‘couldn’t care less.’ The correct term originated in the UK and reached the United States in the middle of the 20th century. And within a decade of beginning to be used in the US, the term ‘I could care less’ began to be used more often.

In music

We are the Champions of the World vs. We are the Champions (Queen song)

One of the unique things about the Mandela effect is that it is associated with even the most famous and popular things, people, and characters – things that should be clearly known to people due to their popularity. ‘We are the Champions’ song by Queen was released in 1977. It became the most popular song from the British rock band and a huge success on both sides of the Atlantic. The song became a Grammy Hall of Fame song and was also voted to be the world’s favorite song in a major poll. It is also the catchiest song in the history of popular music. Even after all these reasons for widespread popularity, this song is also a great example of this concept.

Many people remember the song’s final lyrics to be ‘No time for losers, ’cause we are the champions of the world.’ However, the lyrics don’t have the words ‘of the world’ at the end. These people believe that the ‘of the world’ ending was there when they heard the song decades ago but was later removed somehow.

Jiffy Peanut Butter vs. Jiff Peanut Butter

The Jif Peanut Butter brand was launched in 1958 and has remained one of the most popular brands. Despite its widespread popularity, there is a problem with how many people remember the brand the way it should be. They remember it being called ‘Jiffy’ all through. Many even remember that the brand had a campaign that used the term ‘Jiffy.’ However, it was always called ‘Jif,’ and there is no such campaign using the word ‘Jiffy,’ making this another prime example.

Wrapping up: The Mandela Effect

These are some of the most popular examples of the concept and false memories. There are plenty more. A certain group of Star Trek fans believes that a character was killed off in an episode, and yet creators of the show say otherwise.

Did the KitKat bar ever have a dash in its logo? Some remember definitively yes, and yet the company says, “No.” Did the queen in “Snow White” say, “Mirror, mirror on the wall…,” or “Magic mirror on the wall”? If you watch the movie, the latter is correct.

Are these just tricks on our mind or is something more at play like a parallel universe? Some people believe that these are examples that time travel exists and that changes have been made. Are there parallel realities? Is it a simple case of bad memory or some virtual reality? It is strange how this effect of collective misremembering affects so many people. The scientific community is still trying to find convincing reasons to support this phenomenon.

By Mike O’Halloran

Mike is an author, writer, and co-founder of Listcaboodle.


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