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Scientists now tell us that every time we pull a memory out of long-term storage, we then re-write it, and in this rewriting, it may get changed. This may play into some instances of what has come to be known as the Mandela Effect.
Someone asks, “Does the Coca-Cola logo have a hyphen or dash or even a wavy dash?” You might try to remember and picture the logo. Perhaps because the last option of the question was a wavy dash, you might think that is correct, and you store the logo back in long-term memory, but now with a wavy dash (Coca~Cola). The next time you see the logo, with its high, small hyphen (Coca▪Cola), it looks weird, because you’re now remembering that lower wavy dash.
Another possible example: The Berenstain Bears came after my childhood. I saw some references to them and heard people refer to them, but never saw one of their books until one of my nieces had one. For those who have studied the Mandela Effect, you probably know that many people swear that they remember it as the Berenstein Bears. And usually, Berenstein is pronounced with a long E in the last syllable. I had heard the name. I had also had a semester of German in college, and we all know a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. So, when I saw my niece’s book all those years ago, I swear that I saw “Berenstein” and wondered why people were not pronouncing it with a long I in the last syllable. At least, that’s what I think I remember. Maybe I actually saw “Berenstain” and wondered why it was not pronounced with a long A. Maybe the memory of “Berenstein” came later because of reading the Mandela Effect. Or, maybe the Mandela Effect is real and caused by a multi-verse that we flow in and out of as easily as we walk from room to room.
Be that as it may, I have seen other much more extreme changes. In most cases, I can justify them as people selectively changing their memories because they didn’t come off so well in them.
A particular example I can think of is with a relative of mine. This relative was born in the South and was a Southern Democrat. As the ’60s moved into the ’70s and ’80s, Southern Democrats were more likely to vote for Republicans on the national level, although often still voting for Democrats on local tickets. I know that this relative was still a Democrat until at least the early ’80s. In the late ’60s, for a young Democratic woman, the bloom was still not off the rose of Camelot. Bobby Kennedy was killed in 1968, and the last great hope was the young Edward. In ’69 came the Chappaquiddick Incident. My relative’s response was that she believed Kennedy had gotten out of the car to get some fresh air and walked home, and that it was Miss Kopechne who drove off the bridge, and Kennedy didn’t really know until the next day.
This is excusable. We see this on both sides today. People do not want to believe or admit that their political icons or heroes are human, and seldom the best examples of humans. People make excuses for people on their side. I’ve seen people make excuses for Obama and Holder. I’ve seen people make excuses for Trump. I’ve seen people make excuses for Republicans who opposed Trump in silly and destructive ways. It’s part of human nature.
In 1980, Kennedy ran for President in what turned out to be a quixotic run to seek the Democratic Party’s nomination, much as Reagan had run in the primary against Ford four years before. He came and spoke in the town she was in, and she got to meet him. I do not remember her having said anything negative about the meeting at the time. In fact, according to my memory, she enjoyed the experience and campaigned for him. Now, again, just because she campaigned for Kennedy over Carter in a Democratic primary does not mean she was for him. Maybe by that time, she just wanted to get rid of Carter in any way possible. I know she had voted for Nixon in 1972, for instance, but who wouldn’t have given the competition?
In the ’80s, she got more conservative, and probably also acknowledged that the Democratic Party was not the party her Daddy and Grandaddies were voting for in Georgia and Alabama. For the next few decades, she became more and more anti-Democrat. When 2016 came along, she was on the Trump Train early. And she was on the Trump Train hard.
Recently, we were talking about something, and Teddy Kennedy’s name came up.
She said, “I met him when he was running for President in 1980. Just being in his presence, I could feel that he was pure evil.”
Given what I remembered, that came as a surprise. I asked her if she remembered her theory about Chappaquiddick from ’69 or ’70. She did not. When I reminded her of what she had said then, she replied, “I most certainly never said that. I always thought he was evil.”
Someone’s memories have changed. Now, it could be mine, but I really have no motivation to misremember, nor have I been pulling out those memories very often over the ensuing years. Also, it is important to note that the theory that Ted Kennedy was not in the car at all was not something my relative came up with on her own. It was being bandied about at the time and still is being discussed. You can find discussions of this theory (and some of its history) on Youtube:
There are also other theories, like this one:
To me, it seems more likely that over the years she has excised any memory of having defended Kennedy. This could well have happened after years of the events being in the news and her changing opinions of Democrats and Kennedy. Every time she recalled what she thought and said back years before, it might have changed a little until it looked nothing like my memory of it.
Or, it is possible that it was her in a different universe who defended Kennedy, and one of us is experiencing the Mandela Effect, which is real. Still, I prefer the rule of parsimony. It’s easier to believe that over many decades that she reprogrammed her memories with subsequent information and attitudes.
Have you ever run into something where someone very insistently remembers something differently than you do?Published in