Representing world history in the 21st century: The impact of 9/11, the Iraq war, and the nation-state on dynamics of collective remembering

James H. Liu, Dario Paez, Patrycja Slawuta, Rosa Cabecinhas, Elza Techio, Dogan Kokdemir, Ragini Sen, Orsolya Vincze, Hamdi Muluk, Feixue Wang, Anya Zlobina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Citations (Scopus)


Following open-ended methodology used in an earlier research by Liu et al., social representations of world history were assessed among university student samples in 12 countries: China, India, Russia, Brazil, Indonesia, East Timor, Turkey, Poland, Hungary, Ukraine, Spain, and Portugal. Findings confirmed that across cultures, transcending boundaries of political ideology, civilization age, or youthful statehood. (a) World history is represented as a story about politics and warfare, with World War II the most important event in history and Hitler its most influential individual. (b) Recency effects are pervasive in young adults' collective remembering, with events and figures from the past 100 years accounting for 72% and 78% of nominations on average. (c) Representations were primarily Eurocentric, with events and figures in Western societies accounting for 40% of nominations overall, but this is tempered by nationalism, especially in the prevalence of local heroes instrumental to the founding of the current state. The representational hegemony of the victorious Western powers of World War II is being challenged by negative evaluations of the American presidency following 9/11 (September 9) and the Iraq War, with George Bush Jr. perceived as more negative than Hitler in four out of six samples where they were both nominated as important. Results are interpreted within a theoretical framework of history and identity, where collective remembering of the past is dynamically interlinked to political issues of the present.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)667-692
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Cross-Cultural Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009


  • Ethnic identity
  • Group processes
  • Intergroup relations/prejudice
  • National development


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