Honing Instincts. Being Factful.

Ever debate someone? Been told you are wrong? Looked up the answer on your phone? And realized that your view, while not correct today would have been right several years ago? After all, times they are always a-changin’.

If you are like me, at that very moment, you came to a very harsh realization that what you thought you knew – was wrong. Or put a better way, what you thought you knew was correct, however, it was out of date.

In a nutshell, this is what the book Factfulness: Ten Reasons Why We’re Wrong About the World — and Why Things are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling is all about. It is about the constant pursuit of understanding the world around us, acknowledging that often we make decisions based on instinct. The only way to ensure that our instincts are properly working for us is to keep them fresh.

Let me explain in more depth.

You were probably taught that certain things in life rarely change. If they do, they change so slow that it could be lifetimes before we would even notice. Particularly in an age where we have access to all the worlds information in seconds. Well that is not entirely true. Some things change slowly. Others change rapidly. Often our understanding of the world is based on the perspectives of others and inspired by uninformed opinion. If guessed the average education level between boys and a girls around the world, it is likely that you may indicate there is large gap. You would be wrong. The reality is they are nearly identical.

This example is a perfect representation of how the world has changed right under our noses and we have been none-the-wiser.

Within Factfulness, the author often asks questions to test our understanding of the world, and like you and many others the same questions –  we were all wrong. The author explains why this is by highlighting scenarios which that tap into an individual’s instincts as a means for finding answers. After all, most of the decisions we make, opinions we formulate, and perspectives we craft are often based on instinct – some more informed than others.

Here is a shorthand list of the various instincts that you should be aware of and how you can be more self-aware of how those instincts affect your views.

The Gap Instinct

  • What is it? A narrow view of the spread in socioeconomics and demographics between different groups around the world.

The Negativity Instinct

  • What is it? A propensity to believe that negative circumstance is weighted more heavily than positive circumstance.

The Straight-Line Instinct

  • What is it? A propensity to believe that all events or circumstances tend to follow a linear trajectory.

The Fear Instinct

  • What is it? A propensity to believe that perceived fear is equivalent to risk.

The Size Instinct

  • What is it? A propensity to believe that because you see a large number that it is significant.

The Generalization Instinct

  • What is it? A propensity to broadly generalize a category or classification to make a point which may not fully apply to the category being represented (e.g. Most people believe, People would say)

The Destiny Instinct

  • What is it? A propensity to generalize by not refreshing facts that you may know that have a shelf life.

The Single Perspective Instinct

  • What is it? A propensity to allow a single perspective to limit your imagination.

The Blame Instinct

  • What is it? A propensity to use a single occurrence or individual to place blame for a statistical occurrence. This could include taking credit for an overly optimistic outcome or finding a scapegoat to take blame for an overly pessimistic outcome.

The Urgency Instinct

  • What is it? A propensity to rush a decision without full information because of feeling rushed.

The principles of Factfulness don’t mean that you or I need to aspire to  be all knowing like the “Great Wizard of Oz”. After all, we are smart enough to realize that was mostly a hoax and a grandiose illusion. Nonetheless, making being informed a priority should be something that we all general aspire to. Whether we do so or not is up to each person individually to decide.

Personally, I aspire to better knowing my limitations, managing my instincts, and being truthful about what I know and don’t know. I also aspire to be more understanding and empathetic of the world by traveling more and continuing my multidisciplinary explorations.

At the end of the day, what it comes down to is knowing your limitations, attempting to stay up to date with the times, and being conscientious of how our perspectives affect others..

I can do that.

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