Working with Enlightened Cognitive Dissonance

How the Global Ignorance Test  and the Gapminder Data System  works in the context of FuturisticManagement Consulting

Tristan & Matthias Horx

 

What do we think about the world? The answer to this question is not trivial. In a post-fact culture, where rationality seems to vanish in the storms of lies and conspiracy theories, beliefs about the future are crucial. If we believe that the world cant be rescued, we become either cynical or depressed. But facts are, as we know from cognition psychology, not facts for the brain – they are informations without meaning until they become framedby emotion and belief. 

We have been working in forecasting and trend research for more than 20 years, throughout the German-speaking countries and beyond. Never has the future seemed so bland, so negative, when a Zeitgeist of pessimism is tearing apart old models of past, present and future. We have been using the Global Ignorance test with small and big audiences, mostly managers and entrepreneurs. Our consultancy company ZUKUNFTSINSTITUT (40+ employees, Vienna and Frankfurt) does up to a hundred long-term consulting processes and hundreds of speeches a year. This means reaching approximately 10.000 people with power and responsibility each year. Our goal is to give them proper insight into the real changes in our world, the so-called Megatrends. The wider goal is to teach systemic thinking and multi-perspective management.

 

 

Using the Global Ignorance Test on these audiences has a wonderful cathartic effect. As the Rosling family have shown again and again, the more people think they are expertsin terms of trends and world knowledge, the less they tend to be. The higher the ranks of management, the worse the answers to the questions such as How much did the flow of worldwide emigrants increase in the last ten years?. Their reactions to their own wrongness are a brief silence, followed by astonishment. In this silence, new thinking occurs. We can feel their brains aching and scratching, and we turn this energy around into a new openness and understanding. This enables us to convey a new understanding of globalisation and the implications for management and responsibility. Communicating this is such an integral part of our work, that we have published a study on it in the Summer of 2017 – The New Global (Available in German here: https://onlineshop.zukunftsinstitut.de/shop/generation-global/).

Sometimes we experience quite funny open denials. A manager of a telecommunication company recently stuttered in disbelief: This may be true, but I dont want to be convinced!And this is exactly where the test is so brilliant. Paired with the emotionality of the Dollar Street documentations, we can change peoples perceptions of the global world, and thus help them move in the right direction. 

Experience shows, the more you can shockthe audience with their own misconceptions, the more they listen to new ideas and points of views in what follows. This is why starting our presentations with the global ignorance test works so well – it confronts the brain with its own cognitive dissonance and biases. 

The cathartic effect is deepened when we show the Gapminder data and how to use it. Thanks to the tools of the Rosling family, we have managed to help hundreds, if not thousands of minds think differently about the world and the future. This we hope might have helped a bit to save the world, because only constructive minds can create constructive business. If the future has to be saved in the mind, the Gapminder Data System  is the best weaponwe have. Just as the aliens in the new science fiction film Arrivalcalled their sophisticated language a weaponin the sense of future knowledge, Gapminder is a key tool for mind-changing for a better future.

 

 

Help us spread a fact-based worldview

– Start with yourself!

 

Most people have severe misconceptions about the world they live in. Our ignorance surveys have shown that the general public is misguided about many basic global facts. Reliable global statistics exist for nearly every aspect of global  development, but these numbers are not transformed into popular understanding because using and teaching statistics is still too difficult. We want to change that!

A fact-based worldview is essential to be able to grasp the complexity of sustainable development. Our mission is to offer a fact-based worldview that anyone can understand.

Through our work with the ignorance surveys we have come across three mega misconceptions: 1) “The world is divided in two”, 2) “Everything is getting worse”, and 3) “The population just increases”. Gapminder’s core mission is to help people overcome these misconceptions. Making people aware of their overly dramatic worldview is the first step to build a worldview based on facts.

Gapminder increases knowledge of global facts by creating free, fun and easy-to-use courses and teaching tools for young people, educators and the public. See gapminder.org/tools and gapminder.org/dollar-street.

Gapminder Tools

www.gapminder.org/tools

www.dollarstreet.org

By helping people of all ages develop a fact-based worldview, we will empower them to understand the realities of life for women, men and children living in different countries—and so make well-informed decisions.

The IKEA Foundation has been supporting us in spreading a fact-based worldview for many years. It has just renewed the funding to our core activities until 2019 because it believes that a better understanding of global facts will support sustainable development for children and families living in the world’s poorest communities. 

Take the Gapminder Test 2017 to see if you know these 12 basic facts about global development. If you answer all questions correctly, we’ll send you the Gapminder Facts Certificate 2017!

 

 

The Gapminder Effect has been measured!

It works!

Right now, the media attention around “fact resistance” makes it seem like it increases. But do we really know? To know such things we must measure it, and to our knowledge nobody has done that.

Six years ago we realized we didn’t know if our presentations had any effect. So we started measuring knowledge. After all Hans’ appearances in media and TED talks, he expected that people would know the facts that he had been repeating. In 2013 we asked a set of knowledge questions to the public in Sweden, only to find that their ignorance of basic global facts was huge.

Only 8% knew that the majority of children get basic vaccines.
Only 23% knew that the global poverty rate has been halved during the last two decades.
Those were multiple choice questions, A, B or C. And a chimpanzees would get 33% correct answers, just by picking randomly.
We were very disappointed.

This year in February, the same month Hans passed away, we asked a new battery of questions. The 2017 results were announced two weeks ago. And to our great relief, they were much better! The Swedish public had improved from 8% to 27% on the vaccination question.

On the poverty trend questions, they were even better than the chimpanzees! That has never happened in Sweden before! Congratulations.

Now we wondered: Was this really thanks to us? So during the last two weeks we have made a follow up study. If only Hans could have seen these results!

The people who picked the correct answer, got a follow up question. “Do you remember from where you got this knowledge?”

We gave them an open answer field to write whatever came to their mind. So we didn’t trick them. This word cloud shows word sizes by their frequency.

46% of the people who answered correctly, attributed their knowledge to “Rosling” or “Gapminder”. We call it the Gapminder effect!

Our conclusion is: It works! We should just continue doing what we have been doing for 18 years, and spread a fact-based worldview, the way we do it.

Please grab our slides, tools and exam questions, and help more people learn the basic global facts!

🙂 Ola Rosling

Results for the Swedish Public on the ‘Gapminder Test 2017’

We asked the Swedish public 12 questions about the the world: those are basic global facts you need to know to start building a fact-based worldview.

Check the questions and results below! You can also see the complete report here.

1. In the last 20 years the proportion of people living in extreme poverty, worldwide, has…?
A. Almost doubled
B. Remained more or less the same
C. Almost halved

Correct answer: Almost halved
Source: World Bank

 

2. How many of the world’s 1-year-old children today have been vaccinated against some disease?
A. 80%
B. 50%
C. 20%

Correct answer: 80%

Source: WHO & UNICEF

 

 

3. How did the number of deaths per year from natural disasters change over the last hundred years?
A. More than doubled
B. Remained more or less the same
C. Decreased to less than half

Correct answer: Decreased to less than half

Source: OFDA/CRED International Disaster Database

 

4. Of all people in the world today, the majority live in:
A. Low income countries
B. Middle income countries
C. High income countries

Correct answer: Middle income countries
Source: World Bank Population Data

 

5. 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?
A. 9 years
B. 6 years
C. 3 years

Correct answer: 9 years
Source: IHME Global Educational Attainment

 

6. There are roughly seven billion people in the world today. Which map shows where people live? (Each figure represents 1 billion people.)

 

Correct: A
Source: Based on 2015 Revision of World Population Prospects

 

7. The United Nations 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
B. There will be more adults
C. There will be more very old people

 

Correct answer: There will be more adults
Source: 2015 Revision of World Population Prospects

 

8. In all low income countries across the world today, how many girls finish primary school?
A. 20%
B. 40%
C. 60%

Correct answer: 60%
Source: UNESCO

 

9. There are two billion children in the world today, aged 0 to 15 years old. How many children will there be in the year 2100 according to the United Nations?
A. 4 billion
B. 3 billion
C. 2 billion

Correct answer: 2 billion
Source: 2015 Revision of World Population Prospects

 

10. The global climate experts believe that, over the next 100 years, the average temperature will:
A. Get warmer
B. Remain the same
C. Get colder

Correct answer: Get warmer
Source: IPCC

 

11. How many people in the world have some access to electricity?
A. 20%
B. 50%
C. 80%

Correct answer: 80%
Source: Global Electrification database

 

12. What is the life expectancy of the world population?
A. 50 years
B. 60 years
C. 70 years

Correct answer: 70 years
Source: WHO

Ignorance Survey in Germany 2014

In August 2014 the Ignorance Survey was conducted in one more country!

We asked selected questions about global development trends to a representative sample of the German population and here are the results:

Results German Ignorance 2014

You can also read the full story (in German) here.

The Ignorance Survey was conducted in Germany in a collaboration between DER SPIEGEL and TNS Infratest GmbH, Berlin.

You can read more about our ignorance project here: www.gapminder.org/ignorance

Highlights from Ignorance survey in the UK

Highlights from the first UK survey re ignorance of global trends. A preliminary summary by Hans Rosling, Gapminder Foundation, 3 Nov, 2013

Gapminder’s mission is to fight devastating ignorance about the world with a fact-based worldview that everyone can understand. We started the Ignorance Project to measure what people know and don´t know about major global trends. Read more about the project here: www.gapminder.org/ignorance/

For the web-based Ignorance surveys we develop questions with clear cut response alternatives together with Novus International AB www.novus.se/english.aspx. We conducted a first web-survey in the UK in May 2013 in collaboration with SSI www.surveysampling.com. Their web-panel answered a set of questions including the seven questions listed below.

The aim of these surveys is to understand how deep and how widespread the public ignorance of major global development trends is in different countries. We are investigating the knowledge about the order of magnitude and speed of change of the most important aspects of the life conditions of the total world population. The first survey covered some major trends in demography, health, education and energy.

Below are the percent answers for each response alternative in seven of the multiple-choice questions from all the 1012 respondents in the UK panel, and shown separately are also the results for the 373 out of these respondents that had reported to have a university degree (including from the Open University). For each question below we have marked the CORRECT answer and provide a link to the datasource. Our initial conclusions are listed after the questions below.

1. In the year 2000 the total number of children (age 0-14) in the world reached 2 billion. How many do UN experts estimate there will be by the year 2100?

Total

University

 

4 billion

48%

45%

3 billion

44%

48%

2 billion

6%

6%

CORRECT

1 billion

2%

1%

Source: http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/unpp/panel_indicators.htm
 

2. What % of adults in the world today are literate, i.e. can read and write?

Total

University

 

20% of adults

12%

15%

40% of adults

38%

43%

60% of adults

43%

39%

80% of adults

8%

4%

CORRECT

Source: http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SE.ADT.LITR.ZS/countries?display=graph 
 

3. What is the life expectancy in the world as a whole today?

Total

University

 

40 years

5%

7%

50 years

18%

23%

60 years

33%

43%

70 years

30%

20%

CORRECT

80 years

14%

8%

Source: http://www.who.int/gho/mortality_burden_disease/life_tables/situation_trends/en/index.html
 

4. In the last 30 years the proportion of the World population living in extreme poverty has…

 

Total

University

 

Increased

58%

55%

Remained more or less the same

33%

33%

Decreased

10%

12%

CORRECT

Source: http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/pdf/Goal_1_fs.pdf
 

5. What % of total world energy generated comes from solar and wind power? Is it approximately

 

Total

University

 

2% of world energy

30%

37%

CORRECT

5% of world energy

29%

32%

10% of world energy

22%

18%

20% of world energy

16%

12%

40% of world energy

3%

1%

Source: http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/KeyWorld2013_FINAL_WEB.pdf
 

6. What is the life expectancy in Bangladesh today?

 

Total

University

 

40 years

24%

27%

50 years

37%

44%

60 years

29%

22%

70 years

8%

6%

CORRECT

80 years

2%

1%

Source: http://www.who.int/gho/countries/bgd.pdf
 

7. How many babies do women have on average in Bangladesh?

Total

University

 

2.5 babies

12%

10%

CORRECT

3.5 babies

31%

33%

 

4.5 babies

35%

36%

5.5 babies

22%

20%

Source: http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/unpp/panel_indicators.htm
 

Conclusions:

  • Question 1: The answers reveal very deep ignorance about population growth. Only 7% know that the total number of children (below age 15) already has stopped increasing. Almost half of the respondents think there will be twice as many children in the world by the end of the century compared to the forecast of the UN experts.
  • Questions 2 and 3: Answers show that the respondents think the literacy rate and the life expectancy of the world population is around 50% and 60 years (median values), respectively. But these figures correspond to the how the world was more than 30 years ago.
  • Question 4: The results show that just 10% are aware of that the United Nations’ first Millennium Development Goal, to halve the world poverty rate, has already been met, even before the target year 2015. More than half think the poverty rate has increased. It is important to understand that random guessing would have yielded 33% correct answers. The result is therefore not due to lack of knowledge, rather it must be due to preconceived ideas. The results strongly indicate that the UK public has failed to be informed about the progress towards the first of the UN´s Millennium Development Goals.
  • Question 5: Two thirds of the respondents severely overestimate the present role of new renewable sources of energy in world energy production. The present proportion is close to 1%.
  • Questions 6 and 7: The respondents reveal a deep ignorance about the progress of Bangladesh during the last two to three decades. Only about one in ten know that life expectancy in Bangladesh today is 70 years and that women on average have 2.5 babies.

The results indicate that the UK population severely underestimates the progress in education, health and fertility reduction in the world as a whole and in countries like Bangladesh, whereas they severely overestimate how much the richest countries have changed to renewable energy. It is noteworthy that the results from those with university degrees are not better than the average results, if anything they are worse. The results from UK are similar to those obtained by a 2013 survey in Sweden.