Do You Know That There Are 52 States in the USA?

By | Wednesday, December 16, 2015 36 comments


I recently stumbled across a blog post discussing the idea that a lot of people think that there are 52 states in the United States of America. Apparently, the purpose of the blog, “The Mandela Effect”, is to consider why it is that different people remember the same event or historical fact differently. The blog’s author has a theory that people may have different memories because they slide back and forth between alternate realities (or something like that.) I think that the author is serious about this idea - but to be honest, I’m not entirely sure.

In the post in question, she wonders if people might think the US has 52 states because they mistakenly believe that Puerto Rico and Washington D. C. are states. She asks “is this simple confusion or a glimpse into alternate geography in another timestream?” [sic] To stimulate the conversation, she provides illuminating anecdotes from a number of readers.

I would have just left this alone, but, after a brief internet search I found that the question of 50 vs. 52 states has come up repeatedly. You can find it on Ask.comYahoo Answers, and even a site entitled “Debunking the Mandala Effect”. Even though I am not a cartographer, sociologist, or psychologist, I couldn’t resist throwing my ring into the hat.

As on The Mandala Effect blog, in the attempts to answer the question, “why do people think that there are 52 states”, one of the most common themes is that some people believe that Puerto Rico and Washington D.C. are states. [FYI – they aren't. At least not yet... in this time-stream. ] I find it highly unlikely that misunderstandings about Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia is the right answer. Here’s why: the intersection between the set of people that believe there are 52 states, those that know that Puerto Rico is related to the USA in some way, and those that know that Washington D. C. isn’t just a city, is vanishingly small. Here is a Venn Diagram to illustrate:


The intersection isn't zero, but it's pretty close.

Granted that my only qualification for answering this question is that I possess a functioning frontal lobe, I believe that this has more to do with two other factors. The first is visual. Here is a fairly ordinary map of the USA – the kind that people run across all the time:



If you have heard that there are 50 states, but you don’t really know much about the geography of the US, you see this big blob cut up into pieces. It is unlikely that you are going to count them. It is easy to assume that there are 50. Then there are two other sets of blobs. I doubt that many viewers think about this consciously, but, somewhere in the back of the mind, over time, it is easy to turn a blob assumed to be made of 50 pieces, plus two other blobs, into 52 states.

The second factor is the way peoples' memories work. Our brains are bombarded with vast amounts of information, some important and some not. It is normal for humans to remember approximations, unless, for some reason, they really need to know a fact with precision. If you don’t have a compelling reason to know how many states make up the United States of America, your brain is likely to store it as a fuzzy "50-ish". This would be true for a great many non-Americans, and a terrifying number of American citizens as well.

In "western” nations we have the number “52” trained into us, because there are 52 playing cards in a standard deck. This exact number is stored because you learned it while playing cards - especially if your father ever taught you “52 pickup.” (Aside: why do I say "your father" and not "a parent"? Because I don't think many mothers are that cruel, and besides, they know that they might be the one that has to "pick up.")


If someone asks you how many states there are, you may recall that it is about 50, but, of course, you want to give a precise number. Your brain’s memory systems start looking for the number. Along the way they bump into the big, bold, shiny number 52. You don’t want to appear “slow”, so as soon as you come up with a number that seems right, you use it. Fifty-two is about 50-ish, so that is the answer you give. If questioned about your answer, self-justification circuits kick in which solidify it in your mind. Also, you just heard someone say that there are 52 states. Even though that someone is you, brains sometimes don’t realize that, and furthermore, as far as your brain is concerned, you are an authoritative source. If you said something, you can believe it.

Voila. A pair of really solid  reasons why a person that doesn’t need to know how many states make up the USA could easily think there are 52, and feel quite convinced that they are correct. No need to slip into a different timestream, the answer is right here.
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36 comments:

  1. I think you are wrong. There are some proofs that there are or were 52 states. 1 proof is the icp song "FUCK THE WORLD". 1:15 into the song they mention it. Some peoplpe such as myself know this is fact and we don't mean a deck of cards. Also people say the mandela effect is just mis-remembering things. Wrong again, it is impossible for millions of people to recall the same exact thing and give it all with the same detail. I think maybe you need to do your homework more.

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    1. There are 50 states, anyone who says otherwise is hopefully not an American.

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    2. Yeh, good example of a song title to use for our mature grown up discussion. Lol. Anyway, one reason why I was told that D.C. was a separate state was for the same reasons which The Vatican in Italy is its own separate place, in the sense of being it's own little monarch type vicinity. Still though, inaccurate in Washington DC's case, it's not a separate state, it's just America's Capitol in the same sense London is the Capitol of the UK. London is not a separate province from the rest of England. As for Puerto Rico, it's part of the US in the same way South Africa is part of the UK. It is a whole separate country which has some similarities and had been colonized by a certain portion of people from the country in comparison, nothing more.

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    3. This dude has to be trolling. Nobody is that stupid... except people on r/iamverysmart, where this belongs.

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    4. Then why were we taught in school their were 52 states

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    5. "Then why were we taught in school their were 52 states"

      Why weren't you taught to use the correct form of "their"?

      Also I loved ICP and "F**K THE WORLD" Was and still is one of my favorite songs. But even then I remember there only being 50 states. Not 52. (And yes, I know that the song says 52, but I always thought they were messing around and having fun like they do in most songs.)

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    6. Um, sorry buddy but I would not use icp as my authoritative reference for geological precision. Are you saying that everything icp says is 💯 prevent accurate? Come on buddy. Read a fucking book. Lol

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  2. You provide your hypothesis as a conclusion, whereas it is merely a hypothesis. It isn't just the number of states, it is the American flag itself that also has appeared to change to most people. For me, it used to be a flag containing 52 stars. Sometime in the early 2000s, i had learned in a Dutch school that America has 52 states. When I learned that America was subject to the "mandela effect", i kept a tight watch on the UK flag, which i am VERY familiar with, being a UK expat, in accordance with the scientific method. On the 15th of december, 2016, i wqs surprised to see that the physical union jack that i own, had changed to lose 50% of st' Patricks' saltire.

    It is not timelines converging per se, it is more feasable to suggest that interdimensional travel IS a factor.

    Picture our multiverse as a rubiks cube (now a rubix cube if i am not mistaken), with all the faces corresponding in uniform colour, meaning no sides contain more than one colour. We shall call each face a universe or dimension of the universe for simplicity.

    Now if we are to turn the green side, so that 3 nodes of green are transported to the yellow face (for example), then it would appear to the inhabitants of the green face that had been transported, that their realoty or universe had changed into a yellow universe, with 3/9th of the entire population remembering "green" as being the dominant uniform colour and 6/9th wondering where all these green inhabitants came from.

    It's not timelines but dimensions. There are certainly beings that are capable of transdimensional travel, one such entity or vessel being known as the black knight sattelite, which i have seen personally up close.

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  3. I REALLY THOUGHT WAS 52 STATES IN AMERICA.

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    1. There were 52 states..... doesnt matter what the people from this God forsaken place think. They are going by their fraame of reference. You have your own frame of reference from another place. NEVER allow these people to weaken your memories. NEVER start doubting your own memory. Your memories are your memories and dont ever forget that. When timelines are different there wont be any proof.. or else there wouldnt be a timeline difference. Dont attempt to convince people of what you know your history is... they will never get it because this timeline and its history is all they know. All they will do is try to figure out why you remember things wrong, when you're not wrong .... you're just in the wrong timeline for what you remember. They will take a strong memory youve had for years and tell you that you must be getting the number of states mixed up with a deck of 52 cards or some weak nonsense like that example. You will never get confirmation from people who dont share your experiences. Youll only be met with confrontation.

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  4. If your thoughts about different timelines and dimensions are true, it seems to me that there would be mountains of evidence, substantially more than people remembering things differently. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. What's your proof?

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    1. I'm not sure I understand your comment. My claim is that one does not need to posit extra dimensions and timelines to explain why some people think there are 52 states when there are only 50. It sounds like you are asking me to provide evidence that there are different timelines in different dimensions, but that is not my claim.

      Or, are you responding to comments left by others?

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    2. Then why were we taught their we're 52 states i i went to school between 1987 and 1999 and went to schools from Oregon calafornia georgia Alabama Texas Indiana Illinois Michigan and a few others and they all taught their were52 states so yes thats what i believe'd and im American abd thats why the majority of people including Americans believe their are 52 because thats what we were taught and it has nothing to do with a deck of cards

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    3. And from my understanding everyone is taught america has 52 states i have no clue wen they changed it but that is a fact

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  5. When I grew up, in Australia, I always remember being told that America had 52 states and that the number of stars on the flag was to match the number of states. But we never really had to remember all the names of the states.

    What it really could be is an error in the educational books using the number 52. You only need a few books reprinted with the mistake into other languages etc, and used in lots of different schools and if people don't have to remember the names of the states at all and they don't have to actually count all of the states. The error can just be spread everywhere and people can grow up everywhere just thinking of course there are 52 states in USA.

    For example: A lot of atlases/globes were at one stage made with Ukraine labelled "The Ukraine". A lot of people grew up thinking the country was actually called "The Ukraine" because of this. No one living in Ukraine ever called the country "The Ukraine".

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    1. The reason we referred to Ukraine as "the Ukraine" has a lot more to do with the ambiguity of Russo-Ukrainian grammar and the length of time "Ukraine" was simply a region within the U.S.S.R, wherein it would have been referred to as "the Ukraine" as would any other region within a country.

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  6. Most of the people claiming that America has 52 states aren’t even American. “Well, my school said-“ no. In *American* schools, *American* children are taught the the United States, sometimes called *America*, has 50 states. That’s basically like saying “London is a country” to someone who lives in London. They, living in London, know that what you just said is wrong, and will probably question your reasoning, and like saying America has 52 states, you would say “I heard someone say it one time.” Probably not what you would say, but that’s a summary.

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  7. The state of Alabama recognizes 52 states.

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  8. American here. First off there are 52 cards in a deck? Since people think somehow that is responsible for how I am unsure of a fact I've known my while life.... I've had to learn more about the states as an American than I would ever have needed to learn about a deck of cards. The number of states is much more common knowledge than the number of cards in a deck. But anyways, among the many things wrong in this universe/timeline/dimension the number of states id incorrect for me. Yes it was 52. 50 states and 2 unincorporated territories worked into the list in the last 20-30 years. We some how had Puerto Rico and Cuba or the District of Columbia as unincorporated U.S. Territories.


    Other things wrong on the list:
    *Spellings of words/people's names
    *Outcomes of events have changed (Lindbergh baby was never found in my reality)
    *things missing (Pikachu has no black on his tail, Curious George has no tail)
    *time is moving faster. We learned to count using 1, 1-thousand 2, 1-thousand, 3 1-thousand or 1-mississippi, 2-mississippi, 3-mississippi to keep from Counting too fast because seconds go by slower then counting from 1 2 3 4 5. Now if you sit there with a clock and watch the seconds timer and try to count one, one-thousand two, one-thousand three, one-thousand almost 2 seconds past in the time that used to be a second

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    1. Territories are not states. That's why we call them territories. How do you not know tere are 52 cards in a deck? It's pretty common knowledge, and most adults would be able to figure it out even if they didn't know by counting the ace -10 cards pits a jack, king, and written for each suit. 13 cards per suit x 4 suits is... You guessed it! 52! You win a prize for having average reasonable deduction skills!

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  9. MeganBrooke84, maybe, just maybe, things that sound like they could be believable are really just sounding like they could be, but not actually being real. Pikachu seems like he could have black on his tail, but he doesn't. I'm sorry to ruin your little snowflake reality, but maybe you just have a shit memory. Stop worrying about how something isn't the way you remembered it and assuming that means you're a special snowflake from another dimension, and get your life together.

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  10. Hey Andrew -- I think I have a solid theory... everyone knows there is a contiguous US and the full US including Alaska and Hawaii.

    I bet a bunch of people have a hard time remembering if it comes to 50 AFTER the addition of Alaska and Hawaii or if it is 50 PLUS Alaska and Hawaii.

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    1. That was literally the first theory that he talked about in the
      article.

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    2. That is literally the first theory he talks about in his article.

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  11. Andrew, I bet what is happening in quite a few cases is that people remember that there is a contiguous US and then 2 more states in Alaska and Hawaii.

    Where they are probably slipping up is trying to remember if it is 50 BEFORE or AFTER the addition of Alaska and Hawaii.

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  12. I just couldn’t read your blog any further after I read where you said that Puerto Rico is a US territory-on those colorful circular statistics you made. You need to study! Better yet- do a common google search, Puerto Rico IS NOT A U.S TERRITORY-AT ALL!! never was! We only have 50 states! And the fact that Washington is a district is irrelevant!

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    1. Er, um, uh... did you read the posting at all? My whole point *is* that there are exactly 50 states. My post responds to those who put forth the notion of the "Mandala Effect" to explain why they believe there are 52.

      Oh, and by the way, Puerto Rico is an "unincorporated US territory." The US Supreme Court declared that it is "a territory appurtenant and belonging to the United States, but not a part of the United States within the revenue clauses of the Constitution", Downes v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 244, 287 (1901); Balzac v. Porto Rico, 258 U.S. 298 (1922).

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    2. Well, at least I'm not the only one who actually learned something from geography. Dead on man, I'm tired of having this argument with people. Your right, 100 percent

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    3. Well your partly correct, I believe we got Puerto Rico from Spain in 1896, and made Puerto Ricans American citizens in 1918. However, prepPu Rico is not an official state and holds no votes in our governing processes. There are fifty states, but people Rico is an American territory.

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  13. In 8 grade I had to learn all the state's and capitals along with all the presidents and vice presidents and re were 52 states. Ask me what they were and I couldn't tell it was because that was 30 yrs ago. But I do remember Puerto Rico was one of them because since it was an island like Hawaii I kept having to remind myself to remember to label those 2 on the map 1st be starting the connected states.

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    1. I think it's more likely that you just weren't properly paying attention. I learned geography in school also, I graduated in 2002, and what I learned was 50 states, and two provinces. However, a province is not a state. But hey, maybe you are a multi verse traveler, if so please contact me, IdI like to leave this reality, it's full of dip shits. Lol

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  14. The expression is "throw your hat in the ring." It originates from the custom of a hopeful fighter literally throwing his hat on the ground in the boxing ring to signify that he wanted to fight next, the ring being the circle of men surrounding the bouts before our current square, roped-off rings came into fashion. Why would you throw your ring into a hat? Swingers party, maybe?

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  15. there are clearly 501 states. I know this because it is more that 500 but less than 503. duh.

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  16. There are 51 states if you include Canada. Just saying.

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  17. Who am I, snowflake used twice in your post? Best your hammer out the smh, much and lol's to don't you? Scanning online every new and catchy saying is rather sheep like isn't it? 20 years plus and I don't use lol either. Not saying I'm above or beyond, but you are handing out an online beatdown using corny slang, I guess I'm 'triggered' .

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