Blog 51: Mandela Effect by Xavier Lo, FIA, FRM, MBA

Quick experiment! Without looking any of these up, for those of you who have played or watched Pokémon [寵物小精靈], try to picture Pikachu’s [比卡超] tail in your minds in terms of the shape and colours. Also, if you’ve ever eaten the chocolate called Kit-Kat / Kit Kat, can you tell me whether the name has a hyphen in it? These experiments are related to a phenomenon called the Mandela Effect [曼德拉效應].

To give you the answers, Pikachu’s tail is a zig zag pattern and does not have a black tip, and Kit Kat does not have a hyphen in its name! Did you get the answers wrong? If so, then you’ve experienced the Mandela Effect – which is when you are so sure that your apparently false memory [虛假記憶] is indeed correct. The naming comes from the fact that a lot of people seem to recall that Nelson Mandela died in prison in the 1980s, but in reality he passed away in 2003. So is the whole population just really bad at remembering things? Or are our memories just really flexible and dynamic [可塑性高]?

Well, there are several theories for this effect. My favourite one is the fact that all of us have a need to recognise patterns [識別圖案] for everything (a previous blog of mine talks a bit about this). This is important for us actuaries! For example, Pikachu’s ears end with a black tip, so it seems reasonable that his tail would also have a black tip. Nelson Mandela went to prison in the 1980s, which meant he probably disappeared from the public for a long time, so to a lot of people, it seems to make sense [有道理] that he died.

For us actuaries, I would just say that we should all watch out for phrases or common sayings that resonate [共鳴] with everyone. For example, you might hear your relatives say that your own company’s products gives a 100% return per year [年回報率]! While this may be good publicity, it might be best to manage their expectations downwards as it would end up even worse when they find out what they’ve believed all along was a lie!

Qualified fellow actuary (in UK and Hong Kong), Financial Risk Manager, and MBA graduate (listed on the Dean's List) with a passion for insurance, data science, and analytics. Experienced in a broad range of insurance roles (pricing, capital modelling, reserving, ERM), along with a touch of knowledge in banking. Member of the General Insurance Committee (2021), Actuarial Innovation Committee (2019 - 2021) in ASHK.

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