The disclaimer: Knowing the capitals of the fifty United States is neither useful nor important. And memorizing those capitals early in life - with assists from childhood dinner conversations - does not make a geography nerd like me smarter than anybody who could care less, my family's obnoxious braggadocio aside. This post is specifically aimed at folks who could care less. But, each of you will need a list of those capitals to help test my theory so here's the website to keep handy.
Theory: I submit, interest aside, there are three levels of familiarity with State capitals and each level has an easy-to-predict percentage of people who could correctly identify the capital, willingly or not.
Level 1.) are capitals that the majority of people, would be able to name. Included in my level 1 are Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Phoenix and a few others. But my tally needn't be the same as yours. Look at all fifty and you decide how many of the capitals belong in this easy-even-for-the-uninterested-to-guess group. Use yourself as a representative example. If the capital seems really obvious to you - I'm assuming you could care less - it's probably the same for many others. All I want is your help testing my theory. Your sample of people to ask needn't be bigger than three. If two of your three get the easy capitals right that would be a majority, i.e. my theory has been proven. And, you don't have to test the uninterested/unwilling with all your level 1 capitals; just say Georgia and if two of your three say Atlanta, that's good enough for me.
Level 2.) are capitals that the majority of folks would not be able to name, i.e. this level includes those capitals that just one of your sample of three would get right (unless you're as nerdy as me and go for a bigger sample.) Included in my level 2 are many, though not all, of the capitals from the "groups of four" - four capitals ending with the word City, four that have the same first letter as their respective State, four named after a President. FYI, two of those - Oklahoma City and Jefferson City - straddle two of those groups. Also included in this level - this is the kind of trick us memorizing nerds use all the time - are the five capitals with two words (not including those ending in City), and a few others that are arguably more memorable (e.g. Columbus, Ohio?). My total for level 2 is around twenty two capitals. But, before making a final decision about what belongs in your level 2, consider level 3. Also: Note the caveat, because where the folks in your sample are from can skew your results if you're not careful.
Level 3.) are capitals that the overwhelming majority of all people, including your sample of three (that would be none), would not be able to name. I've got about twenty one here. Important caveat for this level: Be sure to consider where the folks making up your sample were raised and/or have spent a good part of their life residing. This is important in validating my theory. Included in my level 3 is the capital of my own State because few people in Oregon or North Dakota or Kentucky would ever guess Trenton is the capital of New Jersey the same way few people in New Jersey would ever guess Salem or Bismarck or Frankfort for their respective States. Albany and Harrisburg go in my level 3 for the same reason, i.e. unless you were raised or have resided in a nearby State, I maintain your guesses for capitals would be New York City or Buffalo for New York and either Philadelphia or Pittsburgh for Pennsylvania. But again, use that list and you decide. Just test my theory.
OK, now my request: My pending offer from the Einstein Foundation for the Continuing Study of Important Theories by Certified Geniuses (EFCSITCG) stipulates my compensation - proving or disproving my theory - is tied to the amount of data I collect. So, please get back to me ASAP with your results. Apologies to those folks who are accustomed to the periodic posts I put on my Facebook wall being much briefer than this. Given my current shortage of funds, and the potential windfall from EFCSITCG, enlisting help from Facebook friends today seemed financially sensible.