Is it fake news, false memory, or the weird Mandela effect that affects many people? Or is it the phenomenon known as collective memory, or a shared pool of memories?
When did you last have an argument with someone, or people, concerning a memory? Everyone is adamant that they remember the facts, but what was the reality of the situation?
Before we get into the ‘collective memory’, I’m going to share one of my pet hates. I really hate it when someone is relating a story and someone else, usually a family member, interrupts with corrections. How do you know the second person’s memory is correct and is it all that important to get the facts straight? The person telling the story is relating it from what they remember. It is the joy of sharing a memory, not the accuracy of the account, and we all know that memory is selective.
I struggle to remember what I wrote in my last article. I am a prolific writer and enjoy what I do. So, what if I don’t remember the exact content of each article? The topic was of great value to me when I was writing it. After all, there are so many exciting things to capture our attention and not enough hours in the day. I quickly move on to the next topic that I feel is of value to my readers. Does that mean I suffer from amnesia, dementia, or have a false memory? Call it what you like, but read on to see what the ‘experts’ call collective memory.
Weird Mandela Effect
In 2010, Fiona Broom, a paranormal researcher, started the phenomenon that has been labelled the ‘Mandela Effect’. She says she had vivid and detailed memories of news coverage of South African anti-Apartheid leader Nelson Mandela dying in prison in the 1980s. His death was in 2013, yet there are many people who remember, with absolute certainty, that Mandela died in the 1980s while in prison.
The weird ‘Mandela Effect’ does not involve lying or deception. It occurs when a person, or group of people, have clear, but collective memory of something, whether that memory is true or false.
Fun Examples of Weird Mandela Effect
What did Forrest Gump say about chocolates? Most people will all answer, “Life is like a box of chocolates.” I certainly did. The fact is, he said, “Life WAS like a box of chocolates.” This gives the saying a whole different complex.
Here is another example from the film Snow White, which is always quoted as, “Mirror, mirror on the wall….” Fact: “Magic mirror, on the wall.” Mirror, mirror, has a greater resonance to it.
What did Humphrey Bogart’s character, Rick, say to Elsa? Popular recollection is, “Play it again, Sam.” Fact: “Play it, Sam.” The ‘again’ somehow adds to the moment in people’s memory.
Ask someone to spell the Stone Age Family, from “Yabba Dabba Do”. They will invariably write “Flinstones.” It is Flintstones with two ‘t’s in the name.
The film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, with its Toon Town, won three Academy Awards. This has blurred the memory of the original characters. The fact is that Bugs Bunny and crew were all members of the Looney Tunes family, not Loony Toons.
What happened to the man who challenged tanks in Tiananmen Square, in 1989, which earned him a Pulitzer nomination? He didn’t win the award, but many believe “The Tank Man got run over by those Tanks and murdered.” Other footages of the event show him unhurt. Wikipedia has him arrested and executed 14 days later. So what is the truth?
False Memory of the Weird Mandela Effect
Memories are not a trusted or precise source of history, as we view events through our own experiences and emotions. What is important for one person, is totally forgotten by another.
Memories can also change with time, as we remember things in different contexts. Other people’s opinions influence what we remember, as memory is suggestible. Hearing a memory through another person can influence your memory of the same incident.
Scientists have proven they can induce false memories of having committed a crime. In one study they found people could not distinguish between the false and reality. Inducing false memories has a name, Deese-Roediger-McDermott (DRM) task paradigm. It was a simple cognitive example of investigating false memories in a laboratory setting.
False Memories or Fake News
Widespread incorrect information, or fake news, exerts subtle influences. This is fertile ground for conspiracy theories and harmful false beliefs, as was experienced by the Hitler Youth. The nature of conspiracies is such that you can’t put them to rest once they become rooted in the mind. The youth firmly believed they were the elite.
Take the political scene in America. Those who believe the election was stolen share a belief that is set in concrete and short of the world ending, they will continue to keep believing that. In their mind, democracy has already been compromised.
With enough input from social media etc., people can misremember events, or claim that events never happened. People may have their own agenda for claiming the Holocaust never took place, but does that alter the facts?
Those who believe in Putin will claim the war in Ukraine is just a military exercise. One of Hitler’s henchmen said “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.
Entire generations were affected by the manipulation of the mind. The concept of the Hitler-Jugend, Bund deutscher Arbeiterjugend (“Hitler Youth, League of German Worker Youth”) was birthed in 1922. By January 1933, 50,000 young boys and girls, excluding Jews, had been educated in the principles of Naziism. By the end of the year, there were more than 2 million ‘educated’ children. In 1936 every ‘Ayran’ boy and girl over the age of six were required to join the Nazi youth group. “Whoever has the youth has the future.”
The youth were impatient to join, to belong, to feel important. Human nature has an inbuilt herd mentality. It takes courage to be the odd man out. Our most embarrassing memories are usually ones where we were out of step with everyone else.
With the Nazi youth the ‘collective mentality’ was firmly at work. One boy wrote, “There were the paraphernalia and the symbols, the pomp and the mysticism, very close in feeling to religious rituals.” These children had a collective memory and mentality, in believing they were the nation’s ‘cream’. They would never be free again. They had been programmed, psychologically as well as physically. They believed what they were being taught was the truth.
Memories are vital to our sense of self-worth and the control centre of our existence. Memories give meaning to our everyday life, both consciously and unconsciously. What lies in our memory, which is built on life’s experiences, moulds what we become. Adults are moulded by the memories of their youth.
Confabulation is the falsification of memory by a person who, believes he or she, is genuinely communicating truthful memories. How many are behind physical and mental bars because of what they remember of their childhood?
Confabulation is the sort of memory which compensates for holes in a memory. It’s like writing your own story. Each of us, in our own way, is an author, as we traverse the dusty roads of memory.
A person with dementia usually has a brilliant mind in remembering earlier events in their life. They are not lying or attempting to deceive, they just recall the incidents a certain way. There is nothing to be gained by trying to change those memories.
It is scary when a family member relates something, then turns to you and asks for your input, when you don’t even remember the incident. It’s not a matter of age and the onset of dementia. It’s probably just that the incident didn’t stand out in your memory, as it had no lasting footprint. Each time a memory is revisited, it is imprinted stronger in your mind and may well have a content of confabulation.
Priming and the Weird Mandela Effect
Exposure to a stimulus directly influences a person’s response to a subsequent stimulus. That sounds like psychological double talk, but it’s a lot simpler than it sounds. You hear or read the word ‘grass’ it triggers memories and other words that are related to it: ‘Tree, lawnmower, garden, the smell of newly mown grass’. It depends on how strongly the incident is etched on your memory and the strength of the stimulus.
Walk into a house and smell a cake cooking in the oven, or your favourite meal cooking in a pot. Your mouth waters with the memory. Cooking is not just about the appearance and smell of a dish, but the memory of enjoying it.
Priming is a major tool in advertisers’ arsenals. There was an ad for a dishwashing liquid, where the female actor’s voice irritatingly grated on the ear. Women subconsciously reached for that product when they went to the supermarket. Not because the product was good, but because the memory and the emotion it invoked was so strongly imprinted, it gave the product a ‘familiarity’.
A lot of pop music had, or has, a subliminal message to it, such as the word ‘suicide’ said again and again. Is this part of the reason teenage suicide escalated?
Why did over a quarter of a million people make the huge effort to file past the coffin and pay their respects to Queen Elizabeth II? The outpouring of collective grief was their expression of memories that flowed from the influence the queen had exerted over a 70-year reign. In responding to her death, they created even more memories. This was collective memory producing collective grief, proving that we do not live isolated from others, but our voice affects others, to good or to evil. We can feed others the bread of tears, or the bread of joy.
Broome says remembering certain events and details distinctly, helps prove that we live in an alternate reality. Could it also be that an alternative reality softens a traumatic event? I’m sure my recollections of a daughter’s death are quite different to what others remember. Does it matter that we remember things in a different ‘universe’?
Broome describes the Mandela effect as a clear memory of an event that never occurred. She calls it alternate reality, or parallel universe, that may lead into the ‘string theory’. The theory of a parallel universe lacks scientific support and is highly controversial.
However, the Internet and the media do provide an ‘alternative universe’. One where false claims and conspiracies can flourish. Wasn’t it an alternate universe that produced November 6th? Goaded on by ‘voices’ people rose up for something they believed in, be it false or true.
Drawing on the basic principles of memories, people can be convinced to believe things that never happened. Most times false information is mixed with truth, and repeating a lie enough times it becomes accepted as fact. Hitler was an expert at this kind of manipulation. Yet, if a parent tells a child enough times he or she is stupid, it becomes a fact in that child’s mind.
Proliferation tends to give false news validity. The arguments around COVID and vaccines is a case in point. Did the media cause fear of the virus to escalate? Yet, we all want to know the facts of whatever is happening, for knowledge is power.
How to Recognize the Weird Mandela Effect
How important is it to recognize the Mandela effect? It is easy to have confidence in a memory, so that we spontaneously and unconsciously generate details to support it. Without external evidence of the truth, there is no way to prove if a memory is false or true. Therefore, courts stringently demand evidence and hopefully that evidence is not falsified.
So, we come full circle, to the question, “How important is it whether a memory is true or false?” If a memory is not harmful, or vital to the wellbeing of others, why not just let people wander down their memory lane?
If memories have important social or political consequences, it is important to squelch misinformation and conspiracies, wherever possible and as quickly as possible. Princess Diana is gone, why not let her lie in peace? What value is it to drag up a storm of conspiracies. Princess Kelly is gone. Another woman whose death has strange circumstances. We can ponder these lives quietly, but the past cannot be undone. Listening to an elderly person regurgitate their past is a release for them, as they once again enjoy the experience, be it true or false.
Living in Today
Memories have a value, but so too does living today to its fullest. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow may never come. We only have the now. Use your voice to good and value the good memories, as you make more.
I don’t apologize for this longer than usual article, if it has opened up some insight into memory. Check out other posts at Whispering Encouragement. We are here to inform and encourage. Tell us of any person, business, or incident you would like to see highlighted. Subscribe, for free, so you can keep up to date with topics that interest you.