Explaining the Mandela Effect: How Can Reality Differ From What You Remember?

“What if I told you everything you know is a lie.”


This is a line made famous by The Matrix film. But, what if I told you that line was never actually said in the movie.

Despite some arguing that this line originated in 2011, over a decade after The Matrix was released, many remain utterly convinced that it was said by the character Morpheus in the original film. This is a Mandela Effect in action.

What is the Mandela Effect?

The Mandela Effect is truly bizarre: the concept that many unconnected people remember a nonexistent event identically to one another.

Although the internet term was coined by paranormal enthusiast Fiona Broome in 2010, the Mandela Effect can be more formally defined as a form of confabulation, a psychiatric term used to describe the disturbance of memory. Many people – mostly total strangers – claim to remember the exact same events with the exact same details. However, these events never happened; at least not according to history books, newspaper archives, and most bizarrely – most of the population.

Watch our video on 3 worthy examples of the Mandela Effect

It is necessary to clarify what the Mandela Effect, if real, suggests. It is, in essence, an effect without a cause. After all, how can a memory be remembered when there was nothing to cause that memory to form in the first place. It defies our every perception of reality to merely even entertain the notion that such a fundamental aspect of our knowledge – a clearly recalled memory – is, in fact, not true.

It is simple, then, to dismiss all Mandela Effects as confabulations: a disturbance of memory, produced by an unconscious fabrication or misinterpretation of oneself or the world. Yet, this is a frustrating and reductionist explanation, for there are so many thousands of people who remember the comedian Sinbad starring in a genie movie; who swear to have seen Nelson Mandela’s funeral on television before it happened; who recall Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of “The Last Supper” having goblets in it; and many others. Materialistic explanations, limited to our current understanding of the world around us, serve as blanket assertions. Such sweeping claims are always dangerous to make: whilst they may at times be correct, more often than not the stance of “it cannot be because it cannot” lacks detailed explanation beyond an assertion, thus collapsing any further potential discussion.

One of the world’s most famous painting, “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci is a late 15th-century mural painting in the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan. Many people remember the painting having goblets on the table. However, as one can see, there are none.

Such an explanation, then, does not follow the standards of appropriate scientific inquiry into a given phenomenon. As mentioned before, it is almost impossible to explain the Mandela Effect in terms of cause and effect; so, understandably, it’s safer – and easier – to dismiss it altogether.

An extraterrestrial explanation of the Mandela Effect

If one is determined to keep to the material universe as we know it, there is one viable explanation. However, it does involve aliens.

Many people who claim to be alien abductees report being shown images, and even films, that never existed whilst on board alien spacecraft. Could Mandela Effects be the suppressed memories of possible abductees of their time on board an alien spacecraft?

Whilst an extraterrestrial explanation does provide a cause to the effect, it does fall into the inevitable trap of being indefensible due to a lack of precise, non-testimonial evidence.

The Mandela Effect and time travel

If we open ourselves up to what is scientifically viable, if still fantastical, the interference of time travellers could be a potential explanation for the Mandela Effect. Indeed, scientists have suggested that people can travel back in time through a traversable wormhole. Such wormholes, in theory, would bend space and time, allowing for a person to go back in time.1 Thereby, Mandela Effects could be caused either directly or indirectly by time travellers, indirectly being an example of a butterfly effect. These changes, whilst forgotten by the majority of the population, are retained by some. It is these people who experience Mandela Effects, which are memories based on remnant memories of the world before the change.

Yet, this does not make complete sense. For, if space and time are changed, why would a minority of people still be remembering an event that now never happened? This would be akin to saying that particular molecules in matter can exist in two states at one time. Space and time, as we know it, cannot be altered once an effect has been caused by an event. Water molecules may be frozen into ice, but those molecules are ice even if you put them in a glass of water. It is only when they change back into water, changing state, that they become something else.

An event causes someone to remember it. Someone travels back in time to change that event. Now that the event is changed, so will be the memory. An observer of an event can only remember the event as it is observed – not an alternate event, even if it did once exist. There can be no remnants in this situation. That is, unless cause and effect do not matter.

Is time travel possible? If a future society has unlocked the secrets of time travel, the butterfly effect could be triggered by those intervening in the past.

The issue of cause and effect

At this point, one can begin to question the very fundamentals of cause and effect. The proposition of the Axiom of Causality is that everything in the universe has a cause and is thus an effect of that cause. This is accepted science. However, there have been those who have questioned this scientific absolute. It is this questioning which may provide an opening for the seemingly impossibility of the Mandela Effect.

The analytical psychiatrist Carl Jung put forward the notion of synchronicity in the 1950s. This is the idea that events do not always need to have a causal relationship. Indeed, some seemingly meaningless coincidences, are in fact “meaningful” despite having no obvious thread which connects them. Jung’s belief was that, just as events may be connected by causality, they may also be connected by meaning. Events connected by meaning need not have an explanation in terms of causality. Therefore, these “meaningful coincidences” have an effect upon the universe without having a cause.2


The notion of synchronicity can, then, be used in regards to the Mandela Effect. We could interpret these false memories as a series of “meaningful coincidences”, that have only now become widely apparent, through the exchange of information on the Internet and our societies’ high level of interconnectivity. According to Jung’s philosophical concept, these so-called Mandela Effects can be interpreted as an example of large-scale synchronicity, whose meaning and relationship is yet to become apparent.

Synchronicity may explain such things as letters changing, or even phrases in the Bible becoming different. However, it is difficult to explain how, for example, a whole event or a movie, remembered so vividly by so many, may only exist as an acausal memory. This attempts to stretch the boundaries of synchronicity too far.

It seems, therefore, that an additional explanation is required. Thus, we must journey deeper into the rabbit hole.

Another of Carl Jung’s theories revolves around the idea of a “collective unconscious”. That is to say that people are not merely born a blank slate, but rather that there are pre-existing forces which shape our memories and ideas that have extended across the history of our species. In more simpler terms, that some memories are external, existing outside of personal consciousness. 3 Edgar Mitchell, the sixth man of the moon, and PhD graduate in aeronautics and astronautics from MIT, has expanded on Jung’s theory by theorising the idea of a quantum hologram.

Explaining the Mandela Effect using quantum physics

The quantum hologram is not a hologram in the sense of a computer program. Rather, it is proposed to be the manner in which we see the world around us. Mitchell has theorised that our consciousness operates in a different way than one would expect: we do not see through our eyes, but through our minds. Our eyes receive stimuli from the outside world, which is then relayed to our brains in order for a mirror image of our physical surroundings to be produced. This is the quantum hologram. In order for us to see the things we see the way we do, we ourselves have to send out a signal which resonates with our environment. Once this signal returns to us, imbued with information, the three dimensional hologram is constructed by our brains. This is similar to the way that a high-powered telescope or MRI machine sends out a laser or signal to help construct an image that we can understand. Mitchell argues the mind does the same thing with our surroundings: without this visual representation in our minds, the hologram, we would not be able to make sense of our surroundings.4

Mitchell further argues that our minds work as an information processing unit, which stores and retrieves memory information from the zero point field. A quantum mechanical term, the zero point field refers to non-excited matter which is present, at the atomic level, everywhere. After all, at the centre of every proton, the major building block of an atom, is a vacuum. Zero point fields exist within these vacuums. In this field, all things resonate with one another exchanging information, imperceptibly. Simply put, the zero point field is a universal information bank, which exists regardless of time and place. Admittedly this a gross over simplification of Mitchell’s fascinating and thought-provoking theory. If you are interested in learning more about this, I urge you to do your own further research, starting with the links which can be found in my footnotes. 5

To summarise very briefly then the quantum hologram theory, the world we see is created in our minds from the resonants received, via the medium of our eye and other sensory receptors, from the communal information dump of the zero point field. Once interpreted, this information is returned and stored once again in this universal information bank.

Applying this to the Mandela Effect, one can begin to make more sense of the phenomenon. In the example of Biblical passages, if enough people were to remember it incorrectly, the basis of the zero point field in this manner could be changed. That is to say that future users of the zero point field may retrieve incorrect information. Similarly, in the case of Nelson Mandela’s death being remembered by some in the 1980s, a personal misinterpretation of, for example, Steve Biko’s death – another South African anti-apartheid activist who died in police custody in 1977 – could have altered the zero point field.

The concept of a communal information bank seems to explain the Mandela Effect tidily enough. However, it does not account for why so many people would experience the same, seemingly irrelevant, nonexistent event over and over again, thus polluting the zero point field. Here, Jung’s concept of synchronicity is useful: seemingly meaningless, acausal coincidences may actually possess a hidden meaning. Those who recall the same Mandela Effects, engaging in collective remembering of a fiction, could share a meaning which we are yet to comprehend.

Multiverse theory

Another possible explanation involves the work of prestigious scientists, like Stephen Hawking and Brian Greene. They have put forward the idea that the universe is not singular, but is in fact part of an infinite multiverse. In this scenario, every possible outcome is happening concurrently in an infinite series of parallel universes. In one universe Shaquille O’Neal is cast to play the role of Shazam the genie. In another, he is cast to play Kazaam the genie. In another again the comedian Sinbad is Kazaam. And, in a fourth, Sinbad plays the genie Shazam. Every possible outcome occurs.

If every possible outcome occurs in infinite numbers of parallel universes, a Mandela Effect could be a memory remnant from a different plane of existence.

These universes have been theorized to comprise all sorts of shapes and sizes. From that of a series of layers akin to the slices of a loaf of bread, to something similar to a human brain, where every universe is connected to one another like a series of neurons. In these universes, not only have alternative histories and events been postulated to exist, but also completely different sets of Laws of Physics.

Thus, the Mandela Effect being memories from a different, or many different universes, would fit neatly into a multiverse explanation. Yet, it does not explain how some remember events from other universes, whilst others do not.

Combining the different approaches

Many multiverse theoreticians state that it is possible for the different universes to interact with and be connected to one another. This, in effect, is where we can combine all of the theories stated before into one potential explanation of the Mandela Effect.

Perhaps, as Mitchell has proposed, we are resonating with our environment at a quantum level, in order to process information as a three dimensional hologram in our minds. But, our environment is itself a multiverse, made up of many universes interacting and resonating with other universes in the same way that our minds do with the environment. Thus, some people resonate with other universes at times, gathering information and experiencing reality as it is in another plane of existence. This could happen in the same way that two radios can emit the same signal from different places. And, since memories exist in the zero point field, which itself exists, in theory, across all universes – ignoring space and time – we remember the same things across all universes as well. Why only a certain number of people remember the same thing is then left to Jung’s synchronicity: the meaning of the meaningful coincidences remaining allusive.

It is important to note now, that it is impossible for this explanation to be proven with conclusive evidence. This is merely the presentation a hypothesis for a phenomenon which cannot be thoroughly proved or disproved. The ideas discussed in this video have been developed upon a layman’s understanding of advanced sciences like quantum mechanics and astrophysics. As such, I encourage you to do further reading to learn more for yourself. Regardless, I hope that this article has, at the very least, presented thought-provoking ideas which can promote further discussion on the enigma that is the Mandela Effect.


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About Erik Rowton 61 Articles
A life-long dabbler in the paranormal, Erik researches other-worldly phenomena to sate his curiosity. A habitual fence-sitter, he is of the opinion that only through science can the reality of the paranormal be confirmed. Some of Erik's main interests are demonic possession, occult groups and the possibility of parallel dimensions.