Theories Abound about So-called Mandela Effect

by Megan Werden ‘17

Oscar Meyer or Oscar Mayar? Is the show called “Sex in the City” or “Sex and the City?” Does the song “We Are the Champions” by Queen actually end with “of the world?” The doubt over which of these choices are correct has been attributed to the Mandela Effect, which is when many remember a certain event or fact to be true, when it’s actually incorrect.

The phenomenon received its name over confusion about the death of Nelson Mandela, the world–famous black activist against Apartheid in South Africa, who eventually became the country’s president.

According to several accounts on the Internet, many people recall Mandela dying in the 1980s in prison, seeing his funeral on television, and experiencing the sadness of his death. The thing is, Nelson Mandela actually died in 2013.

“I think what makes the Mandela Effect so interesting is that there’s no explanation for it and no one really has an answer to how so many people remember things that were never there or things that never happened,” said junior Kelhan Bailey.

One of the first Mandela Effects to trend on the Internet was the Berenstain/ Berenstein Bears conflict. Most people remember the name being the “Berenstein Bears,” but the actual title is “The Berenstain Bears.”

One trending theory to explain the Mandela Effect is that people who experience it have traveled between two parallel realities. Some people also believe that everyone in the world is stuck in something that creates a virtual reality experiences, called a “holodeck.”

According to an article published on, using “The Berenstain Bears” as an example, people grew up in a universe where the movies and books were once called “The Berenstein Bears,” but now they are living in a universe where the name has changed to “The Berenstain Bears.”

“I honestly believe this is happening. I do believe it’s real and if I would have to choose a conspiracy theory I believe explains it, I would lean towards the time travel theory because it makes the most sense,” noted Bailey.

Psychologists explain the Mandela Effect in a different way as confabulations, which are memory defects experienced by patients with brain damage, but also explains the Mandela Effect in which people embellish their memory or make up things to gaps where they do not remember if something happened or not. Memory is fallible, and two isolated bits of information can cause people to remember false events. Biases, which are peoples prior associations, expectations, etc., can also distort memories.

“Most mis-remembrances cited when discussing the Mandela Effect are things that are inconsequential to most people and play little into understanding or overall interpretation, so there is no real reason for us to recall things precisely all the time,” explained AP Psychology teacher Christine McKeldin.