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Mandela effect

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

The Mandela effect is the observed phenomenon of people having clear memories of events that did not occur or misremembering significant events and facts. The term was coined in reference to events that large numbers of people around the world share false memories of but is often generalized to refer to any incident of a false memory.

The Mandela effect is relevant to project management and human resources, as well as other areas of business. Common examples in include clients that have memories of deliverables and requirements that the vendor never promised and employees who complete assignments that bear no resemblance to what they were asked to do because don't remember the specifics correctly. Careful documentation is essential to ensure that details of agreements are clearly specified and not open to interpretation. In cases where specified details are not adhered to, the documentation can serve as proof of the original agreement.

The phenomenon is named for Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa. Many people mistakenly believe he died in prison in the 1980s. In fact, the former president of South Africa was released from prison in Fiona Broome, a paranormal researcher, coined the term in 2010 when she discovered at Dragon Con (a science fiction and gaming conference) that a significant number of people shared her false memory of Mandela's death. In fact, Mandela, still living at that point, was released from prison in 1990 and lived to be 95. He died in 2013.

According to various theories, the Mandela effect is evidence of implanted memories or parallel universes. In psychology, however, the effect is explained by the human capacity for confabulation: the fabrication and distortion of memories, which may seem every bit as clear and detailed as events that actually happened.

Psychological concepts related to the Mandela effect:

This was last updated in February 2017

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