False memory the mandela effect

Whether it’s supposedly deceased people enjoying great health or incorrectly recited song lyrics, when many people collectively misremember, it’s known as the Mandela Effect. Can’t happen to you? A look at our examples might disprove you.

"What? He is still alive?" More often you have to hear this sentence, be it at family celebrations or at the pub evening. You then nod frequently and sip your thin coffee in a bored manner. It happens again and again that someone thinks he remembers an event that never happened. In fact, however, false memories do not exist only in individuals. Whole crowds of people can also collectively misremember – the so-called Mandela effect.

Named after the fact that many people thought Nelson Mandela had already died in captivity. What is not true. Mandela was released from prison in 1990 and served as president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, until he died on 5. December 2013 in the circle of his family died of pneumonia. Clever readers will have noticed that there is a difference of 23 years between the assumed and the real date of death. When the news of Mandela’s death hit the media, many people were surprised – they even thought they could remember the TV footage of Mandela’s funeral.

The countless states of America

Even if it sounds unbelievable: The fact that so many people together remember experiences wrongly is a widespread phenomenon. From all countries and cultures there are examples. Whether it’s music, film, public figures – nothing is safe from the Mandela Effect.

There is, for example, the great ballad We are the champions of the rock opera band Queen. Everybody knows the lyrics, can sing or bawl along, whether at the soccer game or in the pub. And how you look forward to it, when at the end the mood builds up, you stand arm in arm next to each other and start for the last line: "We are the champions… of the world!" Or?

If that’s the way you want it: Freddie Mercury picked up on the erroneous extension of "We are the Champions" and joined fans at live performances to belt out a "..of the world!" | Photo (detail): © picture alliance/Photoshot

No, it is not correct: “…of the world!” mostly fades into the emptiness of the room, because in the original version it ends after “We are the champions”. But at least singer Freddie Mercury had mercy and performed the song with addition at live performances, so that the fans were never alone when singing the wrong song. Also Darth Vader says in the 5. Episode of Star Wars not: “Luke, I”m your father”, as many think. He answers the young Skywalker to his statement that Darth Vader killed his father with: “No, I am your father.” “Luke, I am your father.” Ehem, nein: Even die-hard Star Wars fans were led astray here. Darth Vader replied to Luke: “No, I am your father.” | Photo (detail): © picture-alliance/Mary Evans Picture Library Comparable to the false, premature demise of Mandela is the death of actor David Soul aka Hutch from the crime series Starsky& Hutch. Because David Soul is still squeaky clean. All right, he”s 77, but the last time he stood in front of a camera was 2013.

Or also very popular: How many states have the United States of America?

Could you also have sworn that there are 52? But the correct answer is A. The United States of America consists of 50 states, Hawaii and Alaska have been added most recently, before that there were 48 states. A widespread ignorance that you should remember for the next round of Trivial Pursuit with your colleagues. Whether the misconception is due to the fact that many Puerto Rico and Washington D.C. to the U.S. states (the former only U.S. Territory, the latter only District), or whether the people too much Star Trek have looked (in the episode The Royale the US flag with 52 stars is shown) – one does not know.

Aristocrat with monocle

Speaking of Trivial Pursuit. A wonderful game to bark with knowledge in front of the partner”s family – although this is of course a little bit unpleasant for all parties involved. Then rather collect a little coal and rip off the future mother-in-law in a game of Monopoly: three houses on the castle avenue, wait nicely with the Monopoly man with the monocle, and then milk the cash cow. Maybe it is because of the name of the game that one automatically thinks of a well-dressed gentleman with a monocle – but this monocle does not exist. Some little synapse in our head adds a glass to the Monopoly man”s eye. Apart from his top hat, tailcoat, walking stick and that beautiful mustache, however, he has no other aristocratic characteristics. In some illustrations he still has a bag full of money – but we all know Monopoly, the wealth is unfortunately always temporary.

Sure, the Monopoly man wears a monocle. Or not? | Photo (detail): © picture alliance/The Advertising Archives By the way, there”s a nice example for Millennials: who doesn”t like to wallow in nostalgia for the great days of Pokemon. What coal we burned for trading cards, stuffed animals, video games. The main thing is that Pikachu was in the front! But what does Pikachu actually look like exactly? Red cheeks, jagged tail and black lines on the tip of the tail? No, unfortunately not: Pikachu had only black ends on the ears. But most think of him with a blackened tail tip.

Black ear tips, but yellow tail: Pikachu is also often misremembered. | Photo (detail): © picture alliance/United Archives/IFTN

The brain is not a hard disk

Examples of the Mandela effect abound and all over the world. Where exactly it comes from and how it develops is not sufficiently investigated. Most approaches to explaining the phenomenon are conspiracy theory pseudo-theories that deal with parallel universes.

But the fact is that the human brain is easily tricked. Our heads don”t work like external hard drives – we can”t access the memories we need at any given moment, let alone remember everything. How easily facts and facts blur there. And how easy it is to plant false memories in people”s minds by asking leading questions or twisting stories. But how millions of people can come to one and the same misconception, that is another question.


Hinnerk Kohn is an author, presenter, day thief and stand-up comedian from northern Germany. He lives for writing and a good Pizza Funghi.

Copyright: Text: Goethe-Institut, Hinnerk Kohn. This text is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3 License.0 Germany License.
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July 2020


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