As America gathers together to celebrate itself, a study published in the journal Psychological Science asked more than 2,800 residents how much their home state contributed to the history of the United States.
Residents of Delaware believed on average that their state helped create 33 percent of the nation’s history. Georgians believed their state played almost as central a role with 28 percent. Texans and Californians — two states famous for their braggadocio — ranked themselves at 21 and 22 percent, with Virginia at 41 percent.
Massachusetts — home to the Pilgrims and the American Revolution — came in, somewhat surprisingly, at just 35 percent.
‘‘The question we asked is crazy in one sense, because there’s no correct answer, but it told us a lot about people and what they believe about themselves,’’ said Henry Roediger 3rd, a psychologist at Washington University in St. Louis.
What was universal was the self-aggrandizing view people have when it comes to their own states — a kind of communal selective memory and self-importance that psychologists are just beginning to study and have dubbed ‘‘collective narcissism.’’
Even folks in states such as Kansas and Wyoming — which weren’t part of the original 13 colonies or historical powerhouses — had outsize opinions of their role in American history.
When researchers added up the average estimations from each state, it equaled a whopping 907 percent. ‘‘We thought the numbers would be high, but not this high,’’ said Roediger, who studies memory theory.
He and the other researchers then had some participants first take a history quiz that emphasized the breadth of American history and the fact that there are 50 states. ‘‘We thought maybe if people had their face rubbed into US history it would change the results,’’ Roediger said. ‘‘We thought they would say to themselves, ‘Hmm, none of this happened in Wyoming.’’’
The prerequisite quiz had no effect at all.