False memories or parallel universe? A look at "Mandela Effect"

Some childhood memories are so vivid that people remember them perfectly, but what if those memories are wrong?

The internet is buzzing about a new phenomenon called the "Mandela Effect".

"All of us fall victim to false memory," said Gene A. Brewer, Ph.D, an Associate Professor at Arizona state University's Department of Psychology. He and his team study memory through experiments and neuro-imaging.

"We all misremember things, and we do it in a stereotypical way," said Brewer. "Our systems work very similarly to one another. So I may have a false memory, you may have a false memory, and those could be very similar to one another."

The term "Mandela Effect" is coined by blogger Fiona Broome. She discovered that she, along with many others, shared the same, distinct memory of former South African President Nelson Mandela dying in a South African prison in the 1980s.

Mandela died in 2013, in the comfort of his home, having served as South Africa's President for some time after the 80s.

According to the Mandela Effect, there are several pop-culture memories that people all seem to get wrong.

For example, the iconic song "We Are The Champions" by Queen. People always add "of the world" after the iconic phrase "we are the champions". 

"Of the world", however, does not appear in the last line of teh song.

Another memory people can't seem to get right is that iconic Monopoly Man, or "Rich Uncle Pennybags". Many have identified the man as wearing eyeglasses, when he does not.

Yet another example is the Berenstain Bears book series. Many are positive that the "-stain" in Berenstain is spelled with a "e", as in Berenstein.

Another classic example is Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Many believe that Darth Vader's line, in that iconic scene, was "Luke, I am your father", when it's simply "No, I am your father".

Now the question becomes: why do we misremember a lot of things?

Dr. Brewer said it is due to recombination, or a daily process in which a person's brain takes fragments from the past, and tries to reassemble them in a way that makes sense.

"As you're trying to remember what the Monopoly Man may have looked like, you may inadvertently remember some bits and pieces about the planters peanut man," said Brewer.

According to Brewer, a human brain remembers the "top ha"* on both mascots, and subconsciously placed Mr. Peanut's eyeglass onto Monopoly Man's face. Dr. Brewer said the Mandela Effect can also be explained by a process called collective remembering.

"We communicate false memories through the groups that were associated to," said Brewer. "That leads to a cultural false memory, where many people hold the same false belief that things happened that didn't really happen."

Many of those most obsessed with the Mandela Effect, however,  don't buy into such cognitive theories. They are convinced the phenomenon is proof of a parallel universe.

"Some people say past lives, some people say our souls split in many pieces, and we can experience many lives at the same time," said Dave Campbell, a medium and hypnotherapist.

Campbell owns The Astrology Store in Glendale, and said some people believe false memories aren't false at all. Rather, they believe these "false memories" are actually memories from a parallel universe that jumped into this timeline.

"Sometimes, we have similar inventions in different universes at the same time, like microwave," said Campbell. "In one universe, we might call it a microwave, and in another universe, we call it a quick cooker."

Broome, the woman behind the term "Mandela Effect", has convinced thousands that people are sliding between multiple universes. In one reality, people read Berenstein Bears (with an "E"), while in another universe like the one we are currently in, the beloved books are spelled with an "A", as in Berenstain.

Whether or not people agree with Broome, memory failure can feel pretty shocking. People, however, should try to at least remember to not be too hard on themselves.

Meanwhile, Dr. Brewer said because of this story, his team is now thinking about doing research on the Mandela Effect. Specifically, why people have the same types of false memories.

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