10 Examples of the Mandela Effect

Tom Cruise stars in Risky Business (1983).
Tom Cruise stars in Risky Business (1983).
Warner Home Video

Would you believe us if we told you the most famous line of 1980’s Star Wars sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, was never uttered? Darth Vader doesn’t reveal his paternity to Luke Skywalker by saying, “Luke, I am your father.” He actually says, “No, I am your father.” The line is but one instance of what blogger Fiona Broome dubbed the “Mandela Effect” a decade ago, after she learned that a number of people shared her erroneous belief that human rights activist Nelson Mandela had perished in prison in the 1980s. (He died a free man in 2013.)

With apologies to conspiracy theorists, the idea of a shared false memory isn’t proof of alternate realities. It’s simply a product of how our brain works to retrieve information. “What we know about false memory is that it arises through the reconstruction process,” Gene Brewer, Ph.D., an associate professor in cognitive psychology at Arizona State University, tells Mental Floss. “When you recall an event, you use memories around it, taking elements or pieces of other events and fitting them where they make sense.”

Take a look at 10 of the more prevalent examples of things that people swear are real but are merely a product of the brain’s imperfect recall.

1. The Monopoly Man’s Monocle

Scott Olson, Getty Images

For decades, Rich Uncle Pennybags (or Mr. Monopoly) has been the de facto mascot for Monopoly, the Parker Brothers (now Hasbro) game that somehow made real estate exciting. Some insist Pennybags completes his top hat and business attire ensemble with a monocle, but that’s not true. He’s never worn one. People appear to be conflating his depiction with that of Mr. Peanut, the Planters mascot who sports a single corrective lens. That’s because our brain can easily take subjects with similar traits and blend them together. “In studies, when you show participants word pairs and ask them to remember ‘blackmail’ and ‘jailbird,’ half of them will later say they remember learning the word blackbird,” Brewer says.

2. Jiffy Peanut Butter

If you looked forward to your school lunch break because your parent or guardian packed a Jiffy peanut butter sandwich, your childhood may be a lie. While both Jif and Skippy brands have lined store shelves, there’s never been a “Jiffy” brand. “They may have had a false memory by incorporating elements in the reconstruction process of Jif and Skippy,” Brewer says. “Now that’s encoded in their memory, and the false memory is what they’re remembering. They don’t remember the experience of seeing it but the experience of falsely remembering.”

3. “Hello, Clarice”

The tense meetings between imprisoned cannibal Hannibal Lecter and FBI agent Clarice Starling fueled 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs, based on the Thomas Harris novel. “Hello, Clarice” has become a default line reading for people looking to emulate Anthony Hopkins’s creepy Lecter. But the killer never says the line in the movie. Instead, he says “Good morning” when meeting Starling for the first time. People remember Lecter greeting Starling and remember him saying “Clarice” in a melodic tone, creating a false memory of a classic non-quote. “Your memory can try to recreate things based on available evidence using context cues,” Brewer says.

4. The Fruit of the Loom Label

Neilson Barnard, Getty Images

Some people have a fond recollection of a cornucopia of fruit on the label inside this popular brand of underwear. But the fruit was never spilling out of a basket: It was always illustrated as a pile of food. “The more exposure we get to things like advertising, the more memories for things become decontextualized,” Brewer says. In other words, people who remember the cornucopia might not have a distinct memory of pulling on a pair of briefs and seeing it. “They remember fruit was involved, and then begin to think, ‘Well, how is fruit usually portrayed? Okay, maybe a cornucopia.’ That’s reconstruction.”

5. A Frowning Mona Lisa

Leonardo da Vinci’s painting is among the most famous works of art in recorded history. So why do so many admirers insist the demure subject of the portrait is frowning instead of correctly describing her with a smirk? Brewer can’t say for certain, but conjuring an image of the painting might involve filling in the blanks with segments of other paintings. “It would be interesting to look at the statistical frequencies of frowns, not smiling, or smiling in paintings,” he says. “Maybe people are just taking the statistical regularity of the [art] environment. People get exposed to a lot of art where people aren’t smiling.”

6. Ed McMahon and the Publishers Clearing House

Do you recall The Tonight Show sidekick Ed McMahon showing up on doorsteps to hand people oversized checks and balloons because they struck it rich in the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes? McMahon never made any house calls. He endorsed American Family Publishers. While the entities were similar, McMahon never appeared on camera as part of the Prize Patrol. It’s an example of what Brewer refers to as source confusion: You may remember a detail like McMahon appearing on television but not the source—in this case, a rival sweepstakes promotion.

7. The Berenstain Bears Fail a Spelling Bee

The Berenstain Bears have been imparting life lessons for children in a series of illustrated books since 1962. The bears are even named after their creators, Stan and Jan Berenstain, meaning the name appears at least twice on the book covers. So why do some readers insist it’s spelled “Berenstein”? It’s likely due to the fact kids may have seen the name misspelled in newspaper articles or in handwritten references from other kids or adults. According to Brewer, it’s a bit of a self-perpetuating problem: “There were studies in the 1980s that showed when students were exposed to misspelled words in an education setting as a way to test their spelling proficiency, the misspelled words got recorded in their memory and interfered with their ability to spell the words correctly in the future.”

8. C-3PO’s Golden Moment

The Mandela Effect is strong in Star Wars fans, who sometimes err in quoting the film’s dialogue but also recall protocol droid C-3PO as having a gold-plated chassis. And he does—with one notable exception. The lower portion of his right leg below the knee was silver when we first saw him, a fact that sometimes surprises people who have seen the original trilogy dozens of times. “People trying to reconstruct an event are taking whatever information they can, which can mean glossing over things or making inferences,” Brewer says. Unless you stared at the droid’s leg, you probably just assumed he was the same color all over.

9. Risky Business

Remember Tom Cruise dancing in his underwear, a dress shirt, and Ray-Bans while home alone in 1983’s Risky Business? Your brain got most of it right. If you watch that now-iconic scene again, you may be surprised to see Cruise isn’t wearing sunglasses. The mistake likely comes from seeing Cruise in the shades in other scenes or in the film’s advertising material. “When you watch a movie, it’s a big chunk of information,” Brewer says. “And a lot of things happen in that chunk. When you go back to recreate it, you’ll get interference from other things that happened in the movie.”

10. Kazaam, not Shazam

Shaquille O'Neal in Kazaam (1996).Kino Lorber

The most startling example of the Mandela Effect? The widespread belief that an entire feature film exists titled Shazam (or Shazaam) starring actor and comedian Sinbad as a genie. What people are recollecting is probably Kazaam, a 1996 comedy starring NBA great Shaquille O’Neal as a wish-granting mystical figure. Part of the confusion stems from the fact that Sinbad appeared in several children’s films in the 1990s. One of them, First Kid, reportedly had a preview for Kazaam on the VHS release, which could have strengthened the tendency to reconstruct the actor as starring in it rather than O’Neal. This one is so convincing even Brewer himself says he’s caught himself “remembering” it.

Should these processes that lead to false memories be considered flaws? Not exactly. Current theories in psychology are exploring the idea that our ability to cull details from past experiences to create theoretical concepts is actually part of a survival mechanism. “Taking episodes from our past allows us to construct possible futures and anticipate those events,” Brewer says. “It makes us adaptive to new environments.” Like living in a world without Jiffy.

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10 Reusable Gifts for Your Eco-Friendliest Friend

Disposable tea bags can't compete with this pla-tea-pus and his friends.
Disposable tea bags can't compete with this pla-tea-pus and his friends.
DecorChic/Amazon

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By this point, your eco-friendly pal probably has a reusable water bottle that accompanies them everywhere and some sturdy grocery totes that keep their plastic-bag count below par. Here are 10 other sustainable gift ideas that’ll help them in their conservation efforts.

1. Reusable Produce Bags; $13

No more staticky plastic bags.Naturally Sensible/Amazon

The complimentary plastic produce bags in grocery stores aren’t great, but neither is having all your spherical fruits and vegetables roll pell-mell down the checkout conveyor belt. Enter the perfect alternative: mesh bags that are nylon, lightweight, and even machine-washable.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Animal Tea Infusers; $16

Nothing like afternoon tea with your tiny animal friends.DecorChic/Amazon

Saying goodbye to disposable tea bags calls for a quality tea diffuser, and there’s really no reason why it shouldn’t be shaped like an adorable animal. This “ParTEA Pack” includes a hippo, platypus, otter, cat, and owl, which can all hang over the edge of a glass or mug. (In other words, you won’t have to fish them out with your fingers or dirty a spoon when your loose leaf is done steeping.)

Buy it: Amazon

3. Rocketbook Smart Notebook; $25

Typing your notes on a tablet or laptop might save trees, but it doesn’t quite capture the feeling of writing on paper with a regular pen. The Rocketbook, on the other hand, does. After you’re finished filling a page with sketches, musings, or whatever else, you scan it into the Rocketbook app with your smartphone, wipe it clean with the microfiber cloth, and start again. This one also comes with a compatible pen, but any PILOT FriXion pens will do.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Food Huggers; $13

"I'm a hugger!"Food Huggers/Amazon

It’s hard to compete with the convenience of plastic wrap or tin foil when it comes to covering the exposed end of a piece of produce or an open tin can—and keeping those leftovers in food storage containers can take up valuable space in the fridge. This set of five silicone Food Huggers stretch to fit over a wide range of circular goods, from a lidless jar to half a lemon.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Swiffer Mop Pads; $15

For floors that'll shine like the top of the Chrysler Building.Turbo Microfiber/Amazon

Swiffers may be much less unwieldy than regular mops, but the disposable pads present a problem to anyone who likes to keep their trash output to a minimum. These machine-washable pads fasten to the bottom of any Swiffer WetJet, and the thick microfiber will trap dirt and dust instead of pushing it into corners. Each pad lasts for at least 100 uses, so you’d be saving your eco-friendly friend quite a bit of money, too.

Buy it: Amazon

6. SodaStream for Sparkling Water; $69

A fondness for fizzy over flat water doesn’t have to mean buying it bottled. Not only does the SodaStream let you make seltzer at home, but it’s also small enough that it won’t take up too much precious counter space. SodaStream also sells flavor drops to give your home-brewed beverage even more flair—this pack from Amazon ($25) includes mango, orange, raspberry, lemon, and lime.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Washable Lint Roller; $13

Roller dirty.iLifeTech/Amazon

There’s a good chance that anyone with a pet (or just an intense dislike for lint) has lint-rolled their way through countless sticky sheets. iLifeTech’s reusable roller boasts “the power of glue,” which doesn’t wear off even after you’ve washed it. Each one also comes with a 3-inch travel-sized version, so you can stay fuzz-free on the go.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Countertop Compost Bin; $23

Like a tiny Tin Man for your table.Epica/Amazon

Even if you keep a compost pile in your own backyard, it doesn’t make sense to dash outside every time you need to dump a food scrap. A countertop compost bin can come in handy, especially if it kills odors and blends in with your decor. This 1.3-gallon pail does both. It’s made of stainless steel—which matches just about everything—and contains an activated-charcoal filter that prevents rancid peels and juices from stinking up your kitchen.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Fabric-Softening Dryer Balls; $17

Also great for learning how to juggle without breaking anything.Smart Sheep

Nobody likes starchy, scratchy clothes, but some people might like blowing through bottles of fabric softener and boxes of dryer sheets even less. Smart Sheep is here to offer a solution: wool dryer balls. Not only do they last for more than 1000 loads, they also dry your laundry faster. And since they don’t contain any chemicals, fragrances, or synthetic materials, they’re a doubly great option for people with allergies and/or sensitive skin.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Rechargeable Batteries; $40

Say goodbye to loose batteries in your junk drawer.eneloop/Amazon

While plenty of devices are rechargeable themselves, others still require batteries to buzz, whir, and change the TV channel—so it’s good to have some rechargeable batteries on hand. In addition to AA batteries, AAA batteries, and a charger, this case from Panasonic comes with tiny canisters that function as C and D batteries when you slip the smaller batteries into them.

Buy it: Amazon

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The 10 Best Holiday Gifts $25 and Under

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Whether you're shopping on a budget or looking for gifts for the person in your life who's halfway between acquaintance and friend, this list of great presents for small prices should do the trick. Fun and silly, thoughtful and serious, useful and frivolous, this group of gifts is filled with old favorites and new delights. Fair warning: You may end up buying two of whatever you pick.

1. Anker Power Bank; $22

Amazon

Need a little extra boost? Tired of looking down at the Low Power Mode warning? This incredibly light on-the-go charger is a tiny powerhouse that will keep your phone at 100 percent and keep you from scrambling to find a wall outlet at the airport. It also comes with its own travel pouch and an 18-month warranty, but the cable is sold separately. It's a solid one-for-me-one-for-them gift.

Buy it: Amazon

2. FYC Wool Socks; $13

Amazon

For the friend in your life with feet, consider these thick, stylish socks that evoke a vintage design while keeping toes toasty (and sweat-free). They're made of a blend of cotton, wool, and polyester, so you get the best of all worlds: comfortable, warm, and breathable. Plus, they're versatile enough to go with pajamas, your hiking gear, or Zoom-ready business casual.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Zulay Kitchen Stovetop Espresso Maker; $17

Amazon

This sturdy, classic brewer is perfect for the person in your life who is interested in upping their cup game. It's simple and sleek, but it also comes with a pressure valve (couldn't we all use one?) to boost caffeine extraction, and the design allows for espresso, crema, foam emulsions, and more. Best of all, clean up is easy, so you don't have to worry about grimy boiled bean build-up.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Meriwool Beanie; $21

Amazon

Need a great gift that everyone can appreciate? No sweat! Meriwool's wool beanie comes in nine different colors and will look great on anyone hoping for something soft to hug their cranium. Made with 100 percent all natural superfine 18.5-micron Merino wool, it's not a head-scratcher, and the material is naturally moisture-wicking.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Bob Ross Coloring Book; $7

Amazon

No one is going to judge you for using paintbrushes on this coloring book. Or crayons, markers, pencils, or your fingers. The beauty of this official coloring book celebrating the art of American icon Bob Ross is that it gives you a rough image to project your own designs on. It's far from paint-by-numbers, and it'll be a welcomed gift for anyone in your life who needs to destress with a little creativity.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Jim from The Office Funko; $9

Amazon

Six days since our last nonsense seems ambitious, but fans of the hit workplace comedy will appreciate having an adorable version of Jim Halpert to sardonically stare at them from behind their keyboard. Naturally, there's also figures of Michael, Pam, Dwight, and the whole Office gang in case you've got someone with a growing collection on your list. Plus, there's always the rabbit hole of Funkos that should satisfy fans of everything from Anime to Zombie flicks.

Buy it: Amazon

7. The Godfather Family Album; $25

Amazon

It's almost criminal that this book is so inexpensive. This 512-page hardcover gem showcases Steve Shapiro's iconic on-set photography of the immortalized mob film. Striking, unique images of Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, and the rest of the cast of The Godfather sit alongside the sharp film writing of historian Paul Duncan, making this a definitive tome that belongs on every fan's coffee table.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Star wars The Child Monopoly; $20

Amazon

There are hundreds of different versions of the classic game about buying rectangles and charging outrageous prices for landing on the wrong ones, but for those who are loving The Mandalorian, this version drops you right into the series' adventures. The only problem is that everyone will call dibs on the Hoverpram piece. This is the way.

Buy it: Amazon

9. British Chocolate Bar Selection; $20

Amazon

Give someone the ability to travel to Britain from the comfort of wherever they can unwrap a wrapper. Crunchie, Bounty, and Fry's Peppermint Cream are just a few of the offerings in this Global Treats pack that can remind someone of home or share a piece of the UK with your favorite anglophile. Don't worry—no fun size here. They're all full size and delicious.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Stanley travel mug; $25

Amazon

Stanley has over a hundred years of quality craftsmanship under its toolbelt. This sturdy, cup-holder-ready mug benefits from that experience and boasts double-wall vacuum insulation to keep piping coffee hot for seven hours and chilly lemonade cold for up to 10. Toss in some ice cubes, and whatever you're sipping stays cold for up to 30! It comes with a trigger action lid for one-handed, leak-proof use, making it perfect for the exercise bike or the office. Everyone could use another way of transporting their drink of choice, and this might just replace what they've already got.

Buy it: Amazon