The Mandela Effect

The Mandela Effect, or “false memory syndrome” is a memory distortion and it occurs when people recall an event that never happened. Why is this phenomenon called this way? The phrase “Mandela Effect” came up during a congress, in which Fiona Broome said that Mandela’s death took place in a prison in the 80s and not in 2013 (as it happened). She was able to recall all the details of the funeral and many attendees started to support her idea.

This phenomenon produces a distortion of both personal and collective memory. Why does it happen? This distortion is caused by errors of re-elaboration of the memory: instead of information that we don’t remember, we insert information that are believed to be true by suggestions or that we have read or/and heard and that appears to be plausible. On a psychological level, this phenomenon is caused by a memory deficit that we tend to fill.

We also mentioned the concept of “collective memory”. What does it mean? Collective memory is a cognitive bias that explains the phenomenon whereby when we are faced with information that doesn’t correspond with our beliefs, we prefer to follow the crowd. By doing so, we avoid the phenomenon of cognitive dissonance. 

Having said that, it is safe to say that our memory is not completely trustworthy. If someone, along with 10 other people, were to say that Mandela died in 1980 while he was in prison, we would probably start to believe it too. If any doubts should arise, we will ignore them.

Famous examples of the Mandela Effect concern also movies: in Star Wars, for example, was the iconic line by Darth Vader “Luke, I am your father” or “No, I am your father”?

Other examples of the Mandela Effect can be found online at, started by Fiona Broome herself.

Martina Fontana


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