Misremembering things can be a really frustrating phenomenon. Has your friend ever covered their eyes and made you guess their eye color and you have to think real hard about what color eyes they have? ‘I see them every day’ you think, ‘why can’t I remember?’
What about the color of the door in your childhood home? Or if I asked what color underwear you have on, or what you had for lunch last Wednesday? Our memory is a confusing and interesting subject, its nature still isn’t fully understood by scientists
Some things are so obvious and blatantly in front of our eyes that our brain seems to gloss over the information, and in the act of remembering we can completely misremember something that we hold dear to us.
It can be hard to tell if you have misremembered something or if in fact someone has changed it.
Admitting you have misremembered a childhood memory, or favoured TV show, can be hard to admit. This is known as ‘The Mandela Effect’.
We all recognise Pikachu, right? America’s most beloved Pokémon? What if I asked you to draw Pikachu, would you draw him with a black tip on his tail or not? If your mind has just been blown, read on to understand why.
What Is ‘The Mandela Effect’?
The Mandela effect is the study of false remembering or misremembering. The term was first coined in 2010 when someone studying Nelson Mandela came across a shocking number of people, including academics, who seemed to misremember when Nelson Mandela died.
She found a large number of people who misremembered that Mandela died in the 1980s, when he in fact died in 2013.
How did so many people have this false memory? A few years off, sure, that’s believable, but how were so many people off the mark by over 30 years? This birthed a realisation that the human mind has an intriguing ability to create its own facts and shape our reality through memory.
Did you read the Berestein Bears when you were a child? Forget that, it's actually the Berenstain bears, not Berenstein. If you don't believe me, go find your copy and see for yourself.
Curious George. Tail or no tail? He’s a monkey, right.. Tail? Nope, he’s never even had a tail - honestly, go look.
‘What on earth is going on?’ you may be wondering, I wouldn’t blame you.
When you misremember something you begin to question what else you misremembered and as these false memories start to stack up (just search for ‘The Mandela Effect examples’ online and be prepared for the walls of reality to come crashing down) there must be something going on here.
It’s quite hard to accept that thousands, if not millions, of people misremembered the same thing, and there is so often a mass consensus that the false memory must be true as others can verify they had the same memory.
The effect of being told you have remembered your childhood incorrectly, that such pivotal memories are false, forces some people to resort to a supernatural explanation.
That the Mandela Effect is an example of alternate realities merging with our own, or that there is some sort of ‘glitch’ in our reality that is causing these things to change so obviously.
Unfortunately, there is no way to prove this is happening, there’s no way to prove it isn’t happening either. Moreover, there’s no real explanation as to why the Mandela Effect occurs.
For example, Jan Berenstain who created the Berenstain bears says there was always a misremembering of her name since she was a child, and that's the explanation, is simply mistaking the one letter.
But, surely, half the American population hasn’t all made the same mistake of misremembering one tiny letter?
So, What About Pikachu?
As proposed in the introduction, do you remember Pikachu with a black tip on his tail? Well, it's actually only been yellow the whole time.
This realisation has shocked Pokémon fans across the world for whom the show was a massive part of their childhood. How could they remember their most beloved character incorrectly?
There’s a few reasons why someone might assume that a pikachu has a black tail. For instance, Pikachu does have black tips on his ears so we might unconsciously fill in the blanks and assume his tail is black.
But when you look at Pikachu with a black tip on his tail, it seems like the original, but he never has - surely so many people can’t make the same mistake?
Some people on forum websites such as Reddit have submitted drawings they did, years ago, when they were younger which depict Pikachu with a black tip on his tail, but they only now realise that they were wrong the whole time.
What is even weirder is it seems that the general consensus remembers the same exact black tip on Pikachu’s tail.
Most people who claim to remember Pikachu with a black tip tend to draw it the same way, with a black tip on the end but a zig zag line separating the black tip from the rest of the yellow tail.
One explanation that has been proposed is that Pikachu’s earlier evolution, Pichu, does actually have a black tail.
This is, apparently, the reason why Pikachu does have a brown base on his tail, as it has grown out from Pichu. But surely Pichu is less well known than Pikachu, so this wouldn’t have as great an effect as it would seem.
Ohte explanations suggest that the amount of unofficial art surrounding Pokémon is likely the cause of this mis-memory, that some non-official companies will use the black tip on the tail to avoid being copyrighted by Nintendo.
This could potentially be the reason why we all recognise the wrong Pikachu with a black tip. But isn’t sufficiently proven to be the case here.
Why Is The Mandela Effect Important?
The Mandela Effect is important because it helps to highlight the way our memory changes. Is it our memory that is the issue, or is the world actually changing around us?
Is it possible that there is a scenario where we are actually changing the world around us? The potential explanations are infinite, and the solutions paradoxical.
Moreover, the Mandela Effect, even without explanation, is a great example of how the idea of pure fact and truth can be problematic.
The ability to bend truth with something so simple as memory makes us question what other perceived facts have been moulded by experience and the fallibility of memory.
This effect poses many questions to psychologists and neurobiologists across the globe as this is one phenomenon that doesn’t really have any explanation.
The Mandela Effect simply exists, sometimes we think we remember something in a particular way, but actually we are just wrong. Perhaps the Mandela Effect is simply a demonstration of the fallibility of human memory.
When you think about how often you misremember someone's name or age, or how easily you can forget and mix up the events of a day.
Just think about how easily rumours spread and change and turn into what people perceive as facts. If you retell an event to someone, and they retell it to their friend, through no fault of their own, they will naturally repeat it in a completely different way.
Each person will emphasise a different part, misremember and gloss over different parts. The story will gain a life of its own, and to this third party who receives a misremembered story, not knowing the truth, this misremembered event will assume a position of fact.
If someone is told an uncorrected lie then they will simply believe it.
Another example of a similar phenomenon is when you have a dream that an event has happened and you assume it is true when you wake up.
For example, if you have a dream that your friend stole from you, this false memory might form some unconscious emotion when you next see that person.
In this situation we have the frame of a dream to inform our detachment from reality, whereas with the Mandela Effect, it seems to happen right in front of our conscious eyes.
The one thing we know for sure about the Mandela Effect is that it is very unsettling. There may be no real explanation right now to how we remember things, or what causes us to misremember.
This is because it’s quite hard, even for neuro scientists and biologists, to truly understand the nature of memory. This is why finding a cure for memory based diseases such as dementia and alzheimers can prove so fruitless.
What we should try to remember is that human memory is certainly fallible. Our memory can be moulded by a myriad of different factors, and it happens in many innocent and casual ways within our life.
So the idea of something like a Mandela Effect isn’t that overwhelming when you think about how easily you can lose your memory by drinking too much with the boys.
When it comes to Pikachu, there are certainly a whole host of factors why someone might misremember him having a black tail. This could be down to a simple false memory of his ears having a black tip rather than his tail.
Or it could be as simple as non official advertising having more of an effect on our memories than we first thought. He is such an iconic character that it feels almost impossible to misremember him, and it can be a shock to many that he has been misremembered.
Perhaps the most pertinent thing that should be recognized, is that we hold our childhood memories dear to our heart. When someone claims that we have misremembered something we will automatically go into defense mode in order to protect that memory at all costs.
Our memory is flappable and can change quickly, so let’s not rush to any conclusions that the time streams are crossing, or that there is some malevolent force that’s trying to change all the facts of society. Sometimes it's just easier to accept that we have probably made a mistake.