There is no doubt at all that this existence of ours is a mysterious one. We are the only sentient beings that we’ve ever known, or have even been proven to exist, despite a near-infinite universe of possibilities.
We’ve spent thousands of years trying to explain away whatever doubts that we once had about the way our world works, what we’re doing here, and why it is that we’re the only creatures on this planet who realize what they are. But still, even after all of this time in introspection and investigation, there are things that happen to us that we still cannot explain, such as the Mandela Effect.
Researchers have now concluded one of the most thorough studies of this strange cultural phenomenon, in which large swaths of humanity appear to all have the same incorrect memories, and what they discovered was that there was no way to truly debunk what is happening.
Picture the popular children’s book character Curious George. Does he have a tail? If so, you are one of many people to suffer from the Mandela Effect—the name given to describe the phenomenon of collective false memories that are taken by many to be the real deal. Named for the collective false memory that Nelson Mandela died in prison in the 1980s (he actually died at his home in 2013), per Live Science, the experience is getting new exposure thanks to a pre-print study that asked participants to review three similar images and pick the correct original. In one set, Curious George was shown tailless, with a bushy tail, and with a much thinner one, per IFL Science.
And, despite being given the answer, the effect persisted.
Participants were asked to choose the original image, rate their confidence in their choice, and guess how many times they had seen the image before. Curious George was among seven images named as “visual Mandela effects” or VMEs, because they were consistently misremembered despite the participants reporting much familiarity with and confidence in their choice. Participants also wrongly recalled that the Monopoly Man wears a monocle, the Fruit of the Loom logo features a cornucopia, and Pikachu the Pokemon has a black tip at the end of its tail. What researchers found “remarkable” was that participants continued to choose the wrong image even after they were given the correct one to study for a time.
The full study is set to be published in a journal called Psychological Science in the coming days.