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

By | Wednesday, December 16, 2015 9 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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9 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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  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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  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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  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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  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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