Conducted in the U.S., Sweden, Norway and the U.K., the Ignorance Survey is supposed to make us smarter.
Swedish researcher Hans Rosling’s Gapminder created the test to identify where our knowledge is so inaccurate that it affects our public and private decisions. He focuses on global issues that include world health, population, education, energy use and poverty.
Here are several of his questions (answers are at the bottom of this page):
1. In the last 20 years the percent of people living in extreme poverty has…
- a. Almost doubled
- b. Remained the same
- c. Almost halved
(5% of the people who took the survey in the USA got it right.)
2. Women aged 30 spent how many years in school? (Men of same age spent 8 years)
- a. 7 years
- b. 5 years
- c. 3 years
(24% of the people who took the survey in the USA got it right.)
3. What percentage of the world’s one year old children are vaccinated against measles?
- a. 20 percent
- b. 50 percent
- c. 80 percent
(17% of the people who took the survey in the USA got this one right.)
Receiving this tweet, Rosling decided to test the media.
Only 17 percent of the media representatives knew that vaccination programs throughout the world have achieved considerable success.
But, as the Roslings explain in their TED talk (below), it is not solely the media’s fault. Also, we have a personal bias that skews our perspective as well as outdated facts that we learn in school. Believing that “we need to know about the present to think about the future,” the Roslings hope to spread the word and offer their test to all of us.
To those taking the test, they offer three assumptions that will lead to the correct answers.
1. Over time most things improve.
2. Countries need not be affluent to better the health and literacy of their youth. Sometime “social” can precede wealth.
3. The attention getting answer is usually not the correct one.
Here is their TED talk on the Ignorance Project:
Further reflecting our knowledge inadequacies, market research from a private firm (done for the British government) focused on what people knew about domestic issues. Their topics included immigration, pregnancies, crime and life expectancy.
Our Bottom Line: Making Decisions
To make successful product development and marketing decisions in the private sector and to debate fiscal and foreign policy wisely, we need to improve our knowledge of key global and domestic issues.