The group shared the false memory that Nelson Mandela, South African civil rights activist, had died in prison sometime during the 1980s. Mandela died in 2013.
Another well-known example is the group memory of the children’s book The Berenstain Bears, that originally was spelled Berenstein, according to many people who recall the original book title.
False Memory Explanations
The Mandela Effect is explained as the result of a multiverse. This explanation reaches into quantum physics as how such false memories are created. It utilizes the famous think experiment, Schrödinger’s Cat.
In 1935, Nobel Prize-winning Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger challenged the popular 1920s Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics with what became known as Schrödinger’s Cat. The Copenhagen Interpretation was an attempt to understand and explain atoms (2).
Some scientists embraced Schrödinger’s Cat as proof of the Copenhagen Interpretation while others agreed with Schrödinger that it was an impossible interpretation.
The concept that many people have of Schrödinger’s Cat is that a cat in a box is both dead and alive until the box is opened and the cat is observed. This pared down version often misses the point of the thought experiment Schrödinger created.
In the Schrödinger’s Cat Theory, a cat is placed inside a box with low-level radioactive material that has a 50/50 chance of being detected by a Geiger counter within the span of an hour. The Geiger counter is also placed inside the box with the cat. In addition, a vial of poison and a hammer are added before the box is sealed.
If the Geiger counter goes off, detecting the radiation, then the hammer will be triggered to smash the vial and release the poison, killing the cat instantly. Schrödinger proposed that the outcome of the cat wasn’t known until the box was opened and someone actually observed the status of the cat. This meant that the cat was considered both alive and dead until that observation was made.
In this scenario, many have debated that the cat is both dead and alive, only in different universes. In one universe, the cat lives and in the other universe, the cat dies. This multiverse theory is how Broome explained the false shared memories.
Those who experience the Mandela Effect, according to Broome don’t have a false memory. In fact, they share the memory of an event that took place in a parallel universe. In 1957, the multiverse, parallel universes theory was first introduced by quantum physicist Hugh Everett III. This theory proposes that multiple realities exist simultaneously.
Broome speculated that what are called false group memories are realities from a shared different timeline that has merged with the current timeline.
Possible Explanations for False Memories
There are several possible explanations for a group of people having what is known as a false memory.
- False stories spread as true stories and remembered as being fact.
- The science behind how memories are created and reinforced through recollection.
- The transferring of a memory (memory trace) that is consolidated from a temporary storage area (hippocampus) in the brain to a permanent one (prefrontal cortex.).
- Memories can weaken and alter when recalled.
- Memories can be consolidated and reconsolidated. The neural connections can generate new associations to a memory that weren’t originally there.
According to recent studies, memory is a complex process and over time, can become distorted, especially if the memory is reconsolidated and moved, thereby creating neural connections that are paired up with similar and other memories.
Given over a period of 10 or 15 years, such as the Nelson Mandela shared memory, it’s easy to see how such false memories could be created.