When did the Mandela effect start?

This is a common phenomenon where an entire population remembers things that never happened. Is it the fault of a glitch in the Matrix?

In this brief guide we are going to answer the question ‘’When did the Mandela effect start?’’ we will explain what this rare phenomenon consists of, the theories that explain it and some famous examples.

When did the Mandela effect start?

The term ”Mandala effect” was created in 2009 by Fiona Broome, in her blog she detailed this phenomenon.

Nelson Mandela died in prison. Wait, no, he got out of it, didn’t he? Surprisingly, if you ever ask a group of people that question, many are likely to remember seeing on TV the exact moment Madiba died in prison, and yet we know for a fact that he got out of his presidency and became president of South Africa.

In fact, he died in 2013, and the sign interpreter who attended his funeral became world-famous. The Mandela effect is a term coined by the blogger and pseudoscientist Fiona Broome and comes to point to those false memories that, however, a whole group of society shares.

The brain for some reason plays a trick on us and we remember what never happened. In other words, we invent things that we take for granted even though they never happened, and at a collective level.

There is no consensus, but some experts explain that memories are built periodically throughout a person’s life but are modified by external or internal stimuli; therefore changes occur throughout our life in the original memories and the experience itself, and perhaps that is why some people think they remember how Mandela died in prison.

Although the anti-apartheid activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner was the one who gave his name to this curious effect, in reality almost all of us have one or more memories that did not happen as we thought. Here are some examples.

What are the theories about the Mandela effect?

There are different theories about this curious effect. These are the most prominent ones:

External memories

human beings are exposed to external information through the media, institutions or people close to them. If there is an information gap that does not allow coherence or connect what is known with what is being observed, the brain tends to resolve it. Memory does not distinguish between true and false memories, it simply stores the information. 

In the Mandela effect, what is most significant is the way in which the brain acts to plan information, organize it and give it meaning. For this reason, many times when these disconnections are generated between what has been experienced and what has been heard or simply not remembered with certainty, this effect can occur.

Theory of parallel universes:

It is a theory in which it is said that there are several parallel universes or realities in which the human being can be part. This would explain and support Broome’s theory that different individuals can have similar memories of events that did not occur.

What are the psychological causes that explain the Mandela Effect?

The Mandela Effect can have the following psychological explanations.

Collective false memories

When a large group of people start telling the truth in a different way, it can become the official story. So much so that it can generate certain memories that are lies.


Confabulation may be another explanation for the Mandela effect. This implies that our brain tries to fill in the missing spaces in our memories to try to make more sense of them. That is, sometimes we may remember certain details that never happened in the past.


Mandela effects can be explained through those factors that lead to an event which affect the perception of the event. That is, when we ask someone Did you see the black car? instead of Did you see a black car? we are suggesting that there really was a black car in the first question. This can also affect our perception of reality.

Our memory is far more flawed than it may seem at first glance. In many cases we have wrong memories that can even influence our mental health. That is why we must work on ourselves and on being in the present, either through our tools or with the help of a professional psychologist. 

The Mandela effect is proof that in many occasions we should focus on what we are in the now and not in our past.

The role of social influence in the ‘Mandela effect’.

When you are part of a movement or a group, it is very common to identify with the ideas of that association, since in many cases membership in that community depends on it.

Therefore, if you are a member of a group interested in the paranormal or esoteric, it is very likely that you will have less resistance to the ideas exposed by the other members, accepting the pieces of evidence shown as proven facts. In relation to the ‘Mandela effect’, this group influence can be a very important factor in the growth of the popularity of this manifestation.

Some authors claim that memories can also be altered by social pressure. That is, a person may modify his own memories of an event to correspond to the false testimony of those around him.

This phenomenon is called memory conformity, and can occur privately, where memories are actually altered; and publicly, where only agreement is expressed, but internally one is faithful to one’s own memory.

The role of media and technology in the ‘Mandela effect’.

Finally, it is necessary to consider the enormous power that the media and social networks currently have on the notion of what is considered true. New technologies and virtual platforms, not only facilitate the creation of false content, but also allow it to be shared with a large number of people in a very short time.

The popularity of the ‘Mandela effect’ is due, in large part, to the role that the Internet has played in transmitting its existence and its alleged relationship with paranormal phenomena.

Generally, the notes that talk about this manifestation, saturate users with a large amount of information and examples, and target an audience too young to have reliable memories of events that happened many years ago. In this way, a perfect scenario is created for the creation of false memories, where the lack of solid references generates the need to create memories of events of which there is not enough information, using the new data provided.

Nine things you remember even though they never happened

 Here are the nine things that you might remember even though they never happened.

‘Mirror, mirror’, from Snow White

The well-known ‘Disney’ movie about ‘Snow White and the seven dwarfs’ is one of the most famous references about the Mandela effect, as many claim that in the movie the ‘Evil Queen’ said in front of the mirror: “Mirror, mirror, who is the most beautiful?”.

However, in the movie they say: “Magic mirror, tell me something…“.

In 2012, a movie was even made of the story called ‘Mirror, Mirror’, which ended up further strengthening the theory of some that the original movie had been ‘altered’.

Looney Toons Vs. Looney Tunes

In the case of the cartoons remembered by many as ‘Looney Toons’, the reality is that they are called ‘Looney Tunes’.

Something that confuses even more the fans of these cartoons is that in reality the word ‘toon’ refers to cartoon, so they were faithfully convinced that this is what the name of the program meant.


How do you remember the Monopoly board game logo?

Although many still claim that the character in the game had a monocle on one of his eyes, he has never actually been seen with this lens. It was a creation that came from the Mandela effect.

SpongeBob SquarePants

The popular animated series on ‘Bikini Bottom’ also has a collective false memory that is specifically about a musical instrument played by SpongeBob.

When the main character performs the song ‘We are all peanuts’ he is seen playing a guitar that is actually shaped like a peanut, although many claim to remember a star or V-shaped guitar.

Tom Cruise

In the movie ‘Risky Business’, which features Tom Cruise, there is an iconic scene where he dances without wearing pants. Many remember that he was wearing black sunglasses, but in reality he doesn’t have them on.

This moment has even been parodied in countless film productions, including ‘The Simpsons’, in which he does wear the glasses.


The truth is that due to the complexity of the mind it is quite difficult to differentiate a false memory from a real one. It is therefore a great challenge for witnesses of important cultural events or crimes.

In addition, logos, sayings and logos can be easily altered on the Internet to create new examples of the Mandela effect, making it almost impossible to recognize a false memory accurately.

Allowing ourselves to be carried away by mass beliefs can lead us to believe big lies. The constructive nature of our mind makes it possible for us to deceive ourselves, even without our being aware of it. The Mandela effect is proof of this.

Fortunately, psychology allows us to elucidate the scientific explanation behind what may be mistakenly attributed to paranormal causes.

In this brief guide we answered the question ‘’When did the Mandela effect start?’’ we explained what this rare phenomenon consists of, the theories that explain it and some famous examples.


Edelson, M., Sharot, T., Dolan, R., Dudai, Y. (2011) Following the Crowd: Brain Substrates of Long-Term Memory Conformity, Science Magazine, volúmen 333, p.p. 108-111.

French, A. (2018) The Mandela Effect and New Memory. Correspondences 6, número (2), pp. 201–233.

Murphy, G., Loftus, E., Hofstein, R., Levine, L., Greene, C. (2019) False Memories for Fake News During Ireland’s Abortion Referendum. Psychological Science. 

Loftus, E., Pickrell, J. (1995) The formation of false memories. Psychiatric Annals, 25, 720-72.