Gloomy outlook makes quiz takers as dumb as an ape
People so convinced world is worse than it is their answers may as well be random, book claims
EDUCATED people have such a distorted view of the world that even chimpanzees picking at random scored better if questioned about critical issues like poverty, education and population growth, a new book suggests.
Swedish professor Hans Rosling, along with Ola and Anna, his son and daughter-in-law, wrote the book Factfulness to show just how misaligned current opinions are when compared with the real data.
Most people’s views are still based on how things stood when they left school – for many people decades ago – when devastating wars, violence, corruption and extreme poverty were rife.
In the interim, huge global changes have completely altered almost every society on Earth. And largely for the better. In Factfulness the Roslings argue that humans have never lived in a safer era, or what that is more prosperous and healthy.
However when asked 12 multiplechoice questions about issues such as global poverty, life expectancy, wealth or female education, the average person scores just two points (16 per cent), a figure far lower than a group of chimpanzees selecting answers at random (33 per cent).
“People have an overdramatic world view that makes them score worse than random,” said Anna Rosling.
“And high IQ, expertise in the field or a high degree of education does not seem to help people score better.”
The authors claim that most Westerners are hoodwinked by a “global illusion” which suggests things are bad and getting worse with the rich getting richer, and the poor get poorer, and the world soon running out of resources.
Hans Rosling, who died last year before the book was published, writes in the introduction to Factfulness: “Every group of people I ask thinks the world 1. In all low-income countries across the world today, how many girls finish primary school? a) 20 per cent b) 40 per cent c) 60 per cent
2. In the last 20 years, the proportion of the world population living in extreme poverty has… a) Almost doubled b) Remained more or less the same c) Almost halved
3. What is the average life expectancy in the world today? 4. The UN predicts that by 2100 the world population will have increased by another 4 billion people. What is the main reason? a) There will be more children (aged below 5) b) There will be more adults (aged 15 to 74) c) There will be more very old people (aged 75 and older)
5. How did the number of deaths per year from natural disasters change over the last hundred years? a) More than doubled b) Remained about the same c) Decreased to less than half 6. How many of the world’s one-year-old children have been vaccinated against some disease? a) 20 per cent b) 50 per cent c) 80 per cent
7. Worldwide, 30-year-old men have spent 10 years in school, on average. How many years have women of the same age spent in school? 8. How many people in the world have some access to electricity? a) 20 per cent b) 50 per cent c) 80 per cent Answers: Page 17
is more frightening, more violent ent and more hopeless than it really is.”
That stance – influenced by the rise in 24-hour rolling news informing people of ever more global disasters – is stressful and misleading, argue the Roslings. In fact, the vast majority of the world’s population lives somewhere in the middle of the income scale.
They have access to electricity, city, and their children go to school and are inoculated against disease.
The book shows that many “bad things” which have radically decreased include slavery, oil spills, HIV infections, child deaths, war deaths, child labour, nuclear arms, smallpox and global hunger.
Factfulness is published by Sceptre Books and is available now.
‘People have an overdramatic world view that makes them score worse than random’