False memories in psychology  


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08/04/2017 3:17 pm  

False memories have been studied widely in psychology. One of the main reasons that people cling to the Mandela Effect is that they so strongly believed in those false memories that they want an explanation other than that their memory is inaccurate. But the human memory is highly inaccurate, and if you look into studies of false memories you will find people do strongly believe in false memories, often more persistently than real memories, regardless of whether they were implanted by researchers or simple misremembered from earlier life. And although there is an assumption that adult have a better and more consistent memory, they are, in fact, more likely to believe false memories than children.  

I suspect the psychological principle of Schema is much of what causes the Mandela Effect. Schema is the word to describe, in simple terms, how the brain can ‘fill in the blanks’. For example when you walk out of the bathroom and a person standing outside makes you jump, this is because your schema of the space outside the bathroom didn’t include a person. You weren’t expecting to take in new information, and when not taking in new information the brain relies on schema. So when a large group of people are misremembering the spelling or logo of a brand (as most examples of the Mandela Effect seem to be) this is because they fill in the blanks with what makes sense. For example, the Berenstain Bears are frequently misremembered as the Berenstein Bears, simply because most people are more familiar with the name Berenstein and so their brains fill in the blank witch what makes sense.

The Wikipedia article on Fuzzy-Trace Theory has a small section on false memories, including citations. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuzzy-trace_theory#False_memories


The examples of the Mandela Effect that aren’t simple misremembering of brand names/logos seem to be examples of other-race effect. This is the psychological principle that explains how people who have been brought up surrounded by predominantly one racial group can struggle to tell the difference between members of other racial groups. So a person who was brought up surrounded by white people may struggle to tell apart Sinbad and Shaq in their memory, or struggle to tell apart Nelson Mandela and Steve Biko.

People then cling to the idea that they aren't misremembering because of fear of being seen as racist for being confused. I suspect that if it weren't sop socially acceptable to admit to being wrong then the Mandela Effect wouldn't be a thing.

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