Memory, can we trust it?

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In today’s world, we are constantly bombarded with all kinds of novel information. Especially with the introduction of the internet, we find it hard to retain all the information that we’ve taken in. One great example of how this lack of memory retention is displayed is in the Mandela Effect. To start things off, what is the Mandela Effect

The Mandela effect is a phenomenon named after South Africa’s president Nelson Mandela. It all began when Fiona Broome was at a conference speaking about the fact that she believed that Mandela passed away in the 80s while he was still serving his prison sentence. She was shocked to find out that like her, many others recall the same events playing out. 

People were coming out saying they saw news reports, newspaper writings, and even a speech from his widow regarding his death. But actually, Nelson Mandela was liberated in the early 1990s after serving his prison sentence and went on to become the president of South Africa and died in late 2013. Broome went on to create a website in 2009 with the encouragement of her publisher where the phenomenon “The Mandela Effect” was coined. 

From then on there have been many said Effects found. Like whether or not King Henry the eighth has a portrait of himself eating a turkey leg… which he didn’t. Or the famous “mirror mirror on the wall” phrase said by the evil witch in the Disney movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs when in fact she said “magic mirror on the wall.” However, two of the most notable Mandela Effects are the spelling of the popular children’s book and show Berenstain Bears and whether or not Ed McMahon worked for Publisher’s Clearing House. 

There have been many reports of people remembering the “a” in the “tain” portion of Berenstain being an “e” and McMahon actually worked for a competitor known as American Family Publishers and never, not once, handed out giant checks at people’s homes. These examples listed are just a few of from many, there have been dozens of reported Mandela Effects which begs the question – what is the cause of all this? Are people lying? Is it because of alterations in our timeline resulting in parallel universes? Or is it because we have misinformed ourselves regarding these topics leading us to remember them falsely? 

Although I can’t definitively prove that people are lying or if it’s because of changes to our timeline, I can speak on how the theory of parallel universes came about. A man by the name of Aaron French was led to believe that this stutter in the population’s memory was caused by the altering of small details within our timeline which created a parallel universe. This theory, finding its origins from quantum physics, is Aaron French’s way of explaining how everyone remembers the same events and with those same people disagreeing about the details of said encounter. 

I understand if this is hard to grasp, just like you I’m mesmerized by this theory as well. It’s out of my power to unequivocally deny or accept this hypothesis. So when considering what is within my power, I will speak on this matter from the perspective of how our minds can play tricks on us and make us truly believe what we remember is how we observed the event. 

When we are dealing with a very complicated situation, making assumptions is one way we go about trying to make sense of the event. Unbeknownst to us, misinformation can be spread by making suggestions or presumptions about the unknown details of the topic. This has the possibility of leading people to be adamantly confident about whatever they are talking about. 

With this logic in mind, it can also be extended to situations where the majority of the details are present but the intention isn’t. People’s suggestive presumptions of the intent can lead you to believe someone is extremely cruel or kind despite their true motives or character. Similarly, speaking about an event can create room for error. Conversing about the major news headlines with your peers can lead to embellishment of the story and over prolonged periods of time, these embellishments can slowly erode the truth of the matter. This can result in you remembering the event in ways that don’t properly represent the details of the matter at hand. 

What makes this fact even scarier is that people often forget the source of their information which may lead them to believe that what they saw on the news is actually something they witnessed firsthand. Thankfully, if whatever you encountered was recent, it’s much easier to trace your steps back and come to the correct story. The real problem comes up when misinformation spreads over a long period of time, making it hard to take those steps towards the truth.  

So, with all things considered, what led people into believing Nelson Mandela passed away in the 80s? While Mandela was in jail, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was not in the best condition. There have been many news reports stating that he is worried that he may die in jail. Coupled with his wife’s concerns for his health being broadcasted on television, along with many misleading headlines, riots for his freedom, and the erection of statues for him, can easily be misinterpreted as if it was because of his death. All of these reasons can point towards the fact that the spread of information is not as clear-cut as it may seem. 

With the vague news reports meshed together with the mind’s desire to make sense of the world around us, it’s understandable that over a period of time, people’s memories can be influenced and be nudged towards the belief of his passing being in prison. 

What I can’t wrap my head around is how people didn’t come to the realization that he was alive when he got freed from prison, when he became president of South Africa, or they heard one of his many speeches on the international stage. Could this be because we are in fact in a parallel universe? Was Aaron French right when he came up with his hypothesis? These are questions we won’t have an answer for any time soon, but when we do, I sure hope French is right. 

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