Posted by: Jack Henry | April 29, 2021

Editor’s Corner: Mandela Effect

Hello, dear readers!

Several of you have asked me about the Mandela Effect. Those of you who wrote compared it to mondegreens (misunderstood song lyrics). This is a fascinating topic, so let’s just dig in!

From VeryWellMind, here’s a description of the term and where it came from:

The term "Mandela Effect" began when it was first coined in 2009 by Fiona Broome when she published a website detailing her observance of the phenomenon. Broome was at a conference talking with other people about how she remembered the tragedy of former South African president Nelson Mandela’s death in a South African prison in the 1980s.

However, Nelson Mandela did not die in the 1980s in a prison—he passed away in 2013. As Broome began to talk to other people about her memories, she learned that she was not alone. Others remembered seeing news coverage of his death as well as a speech by his widow.

Broome was shocked that such a large mass of people could remember the same identical event in such detail when it never happened. Encouraged by her book publisher, she began a website to discuss what she called the Mandela Effect and other incidents like it.

Most articles talk about movies that we’ve seen or shows that we’ve watched and “misremembered” as if we shared a collective mind. Here’s a very dated example about our dear Mr. Rogers and his neighborhood. As he walked into the house each day, what did you hear him sing? “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood?” “It’s a wonderful day in the neighborhood?” I certainly remember it as the first option; but it was neither! He sang, “It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood.” As a group of people, so many of us remember the wrong lyrics that the movie about Mr. Rogers (with Tom Hanks) is called “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” This is the Mandela Effect! Don’t believe me? Listen here.

Another example of this effect includes the words from Snow White "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?" That phrase was actually “Magic mirror on the wall.” Again, from VeryWellMind:

One of the most well-known examples of the Mandela Effect is the collective memory of a movie called "Shazaam" that starred the actor/comedian Sinbad in the 1990s.

In fact, no such movie exists, although there was a children’s movie called Kazaam and some other coincidences that could help to explain how this movie became created (or remembered) in many people’s minds.

I’ll skip the explanations of this as a memory problem or the proof that there are parallel universes. Again, from VeryWellMind, here are some potential possibilities behind the effect:

  • Confabulation: Confabulation involves your brain filling in gaps that are missing in your memories to make more sense of them. This isn’t lying, but rather remembering details that never happened. Confabulation tends to increase with age.
  • Post-event information:Information that you learn after an event can change your memory of an event. This includes event subtle information and helps to explain why eyewitness testimony can be unreliable.
  • Priming:Priming describes the factors leading up to an event that affects our perception of it. Also called suggestibility and presupposition, priming is the difference between asking how short a person is, versus how tall a person is. Saying, "Did you see the black car?" instead of "…a black car?" makes a subtle suggestion that influences response and memory.

And now, I have a few items to test you on! The answers are at the bottom of the email.

In this famous portrait of Henry VIII, he is holding…

a. A book

b. A knife

c. A turkey leg

d. A glove

What color is Tony the Tiger’s nose on the cereal box?

a. Black

b. Black and blue

Which line does E.T. say in the movie?

  1. “E.T. home phone”
  2. “E.T. phone home”
  3. Both
  4. Neither

Which of these is the Fruit of the Loom logo?

  1. With cornucopia
  2. Without the cornucopia

When you have a break, you can test yourself more on Buzzfeed.

  • (d) Henry VIII is holding a glove. Most people picture him with a turkey leg.
  • (b) Tony the Tiger has a black and blue nose.
  • (c) E.T. says both “home phone” and “phone home.” [I watched it and still can’t believe what I’m hearing!]
  • (b) Tighty-whities were designed to only contain fruit, no cornucopia included.

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

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