If you’ve spent time on the Internet in the past few years , you’ve probably heard of the Mandela Effect. It’s an odd phenomenon named after scores of people misremembering Nelson Mandela dying, usually in prison. An event which never happened, yet somehow becomes ingrained in the memory of a large portion of the population. That’s the Mandela Effect. These days, the term is given to any false memories which seem to be shared by many people.
Famous examples of the Mandela effect include films that have never existed, such as Shazaam starring Sinbad, or the fact that Fruit of the Loom has never used a cornucopia in its logo. The correct way to spell Berenstain Bears is another one that captured the attention of the internet.
An attempt at proving The Mandela Effect is nothing more than people misremembering!
A team of psychologists from the University of Chicago, intrigued by the idea of the Mandela effect, decided to put it to the test scientificly. They tasked themselves, with finding out if there really was a Mandela effect and aimed to discover why visual Mandela effects (VME) occurred in the first place. I’ll warn you up front, the results were kind of bizarre.
The First Experiment into the Mandela Effect!
Their first experiment – currently available as a pre-print ahead of publication in the journal Psychological Science. Participants were asked to look at images of a logo, character, or mascot, including popular examples of the Mandela Effect and others that had been added as controls. As well as the original “real” version of the image, they included several other versions with mistakes on them, made to fit in with the original design as much as possible. This included popular misremembered versions.
The participants were asked to select the image they believed to be the original, as well as rate how confident they were that it was correct, and estimate the number of times they had seen it.
The image was only considered to be a potential VME if it was consistently misremembered, people were confident about their choice, and the same wrong image was consistently selected.
Interestingly, in the questions which used examples of the Mandela Effect popularly cited on the Internet, the popularly misremembered image was selected “a significantly higher proportion” of the time than the original.
The Results of the First Experiment into the Mandela Effect!
In the paper they wrote of their results,
“These results indicate that these seven images (C3PO, Curious George, the Fruit of the Loom logo, the Monopoly Man, Pikachu, the Volkswagen logo, and Waldo from Where’s Waldo?) had not only accuracies below chance, but also specific incorrect versions that were falsely recognized as the original, thus, these seven images were labeled as ‘VME-apparent. Furthermore, their accuracy is surprisingly low given the reported familiarity and confidence people had with these images,”
In other words, the results just don’t make sense. Why are all of these people misremembering images they claim to be so familiar with?
Next, the team showed the participants the correct images and asked them to study them, without explaining they would be asked to recall information about the image they saw.
When they were subsequently asked to select between the correct version and a manipulated version, the VME images were still consistently chosen over the correct version they had just studied.
“This low accuracy for the VME image set is remarkable, given that participants had just seen the correct image minutes prior during the study phase, yet still chose the false version to indicate their memory,”The Team Wrote
When asked about their choice, those who had selected the correct image said things along the lines of they,
“only saw the fruit, not the cornucopia”
While people who selected the VME image also claimed that they remembered seeing the manipulation a few moments ago, even though they had not.
In fact, incorrect responses to VME-apparent images were more often attributed to memory of the manipulated feature (66.54 percent) than those to matched non-VME images (44.92 percent), which instead tended to be more guess-based.
From this part of the experiment, they concluded that a popular source image (e.g. if there was a popular image of Pikachu with a black tip added to the tail, which it does not usually have but people took as canonical) was not the explanation for the visual Mandela effect.
“as it is unlikely that the noncanonical version from prior experience is overriding their recent experience of the canonical image.”
One idea that might explain why people are making the same mistakes is “schema theory” which suggests that people fill in missing information with information based on our expectations and associations.
However, this theory falls down with many of the Visual Mandela Effects. In one experiment the participants were asked to select the correct Fruit of the Loom logo from the VME version, the correct version, and one with a manipulation.
“They could have picked the correct Fruit of the Loom logo, the Fruit of the Loom logo with the cornucopia, or the Fruit of the Loom logo with a plate underneath it,
The fact that they chose cornucopia over plate, when plates are more frequently associated with fruit, is evidence against the idea that it’s just the schema theory explaining it.
Evidence suggests that some people may be making consistent memory errors, even with extensive visual experience with the icon and without having experienced variants before,
In sum, we revealed a set of images that cause consistent and shared false memories across people, spurring new questions on the nature of false memories. We show that the Visual Mandela Effect cannot be universally explained by a single account. Instead, perhaps different images cause a VME for different reasons.”Co-author Deepasri Prasad said in a press release
I can make this all very simple for them. It’s actually extremely easy to understand. Some of us are from a reality where Fruit of The Loom logo has a damn cornucopia! Boom, solved it!
Don’t forget to share “Scientist Set Out To Prove Mandela Effect isn’t Real and Fail”