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Mandela Effect: Causes & Symptoms

What is the Mandela Effect?

When a large group of people believe that an event has occurred, when it has not, it is known as the Mandela effect. In this effect, people create false pseudo memories. The name Mandela effect was coined by Fiona Broome in 2009 when she observed a phenomenon. While at a conference she spoke to people about the death of Nelson Mandela, a South African president, in a prison in 1980. But, the fact is that Nelson Mandela did not die in 1980 but passed away in 2013.

Now as she was talking about it, there were many other people in the conference who admitted to seeing the news coverage of death as well as his widow’s death speech. It was a shock to her as a large number of people remembered an event that has not happened at all. She named it The Mandela effect and related other similar incidents to it.

What is the Mandela Effect?

Collective False Memories

This is another way to describe the Mandela effect. When a large group of people speaks about a particular memory in a certain way, whereas the truth is different, it is known as collective false memories. This can also be put under the Mandela effect.


It is believed by some doctors that the Mandela effect is a form of confabulation. Confabulation is an honest lying where a person creates false memories without an intention to lie or deceive others. It is their way to fill in the gaps in their memory. It is believed that most people use confabulation to remember what they feel like is the sequence of events.

False Memories

Memories of an event that are not an accurate depiction of what actually happened are the false memories. This becomes a struggle for the eyewitnesses to a crime or other cultural events. People often alter images, logos, and sayings that make it difficult to recall the original items.

Factors Causing The Mandela Effect

  1. Individual Differences: Creative imagination can lead to false memory formation. A creative mind can produce vivid details of an imagined event.
  2. Trauma: A history of trauma can lead to false memory. Such individuals are more vulnerable to memory deficits that include source-monitoring failures.(1)
  3. Sleep Deprivation: Lack of sleep can increase the possibility of falsely encoding a memory. A study conducted on sleep-deprived participants showed higher rates of false recognition in them when compared with the rested participants.(2)
  4. False Memory Syndrome: This syndrome occurs when false memory becomes a prevalent part of a person’s life and affects his mentality and day to day activities. In this syndrome, a person believes that influential memory is true.(3)

Symptoms of Mandela Effect

Symptoms of Mandela effects include:

  • Remembering the events in different appearance or wordings
  • A large number of people recounting an event in the same way

It is just a way how a person recalls the information. Just like in a game, where a few people sit together and a person whispers something into the ear of the person sitting next. The person then whispers the same thing to the person sitting next to him. At the end, when the last person speaks aloud the statement it is different from what was said by the first person. It happens different people hear and remember things in a different way.

It is just that, you pull a memory from your brain, but time and infrequent recall can make you put the memory in a slightly different way.

Mandela effect is a highly debatable effect despite the reasonable evidence. More research is needed to shed light on its cause.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 20, 2021

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