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A really great book about highlighting some of the unconscious biasness we have in our views of life. Overall, it paints an optimistic view about the world, and points to several concrete evidences that the world is indeed getting better, and progressing towards a positive direction.

If anything, I would blame the media for sensationalizing the bad news, but that’s their job. Our role, as responsible consumers, is to discern, based on our own critical thinking, what is truly being represented. We need to understand that, in order for the media to capture our attention, certain degrees of sensationaliztion is required, if not, media would extremely boring (clickbaits).

Without further ado, here are the 10 acts of factfulness we must exercise when presented with infomation.

1. Gap Instinct

Given information that depicts a gap (Most often, The Rich and the Poor), we must understand that the distribution of people lies in a normal curve, with a huge majority of people residing in the middle of it. That is, the middle class.

Hence, when presented with such forms of information, always look for the people within. That where the majority is, and it’s not as polarizing as it seems.

Beware of the comparison of averages, and extremeties. Averages masks the outliers, Extremeties masks the majority.

Be aware of your vantage point, and what you’re comparing to. Where are you looking at the data from? Looking from a vantage point of extreme wealth, everyone else is poor to you. Understand how your views may be influenced by where you are in the world

2. The Negativity Instinct

Bad news reaches to you the fastest (through media). Good news would almost never reach you. You don’t hear about the 8 thousand planes in the air everyday that do not crash, but you hear about the single plane that crashed over and over again.

It’s not all propaganda to spread fear, but rather, a viable buisness model to create sensational headlines to attract attention.

Things can be bad, and things can get better, but still be bad. Just because a situation has been bad for a long time, does not mean its not getting better. Look for gradual progress of “betters”, even though the situation is still bad.

3. The Straight Line Insticnt

When you look a graph, don’t assume a straight line. Plateaus will be hit, and dips can happen.

Other than Straight lines, other graph shapes include:

  1. S shaped
  2. A Slide down
  3. Normal Curves
  4. Exponential Curves

A child from ages 5-10 have a straight line growth in height, but that doesnt mean the line will extend straight all the way. It’ll plateau and form an S shaped curve

4. The Fear Instinct

Media always shows you the worse to play on your fears.

There are 3 categories of harm that we are afraid of:

  1. Physical Harm
  2. Captivity; Loss of control
  3. Contamination; Poisoning, virus, and unknown substances

You can classify sensational media to any of these categories

5. The Size Instinct

When given a number, always have it in comparison with something else. Rate of… Compared to…

Numbers alone do not tell as much as comparisions.

80/20 rule usually applies, where 80% of effort contributes to 20% of the output, and 20% of effort contributes to 80% of the output. Look for the smaller unseen contributing factors. Usually, they are the cause of the 80% of the outcome.

6. The Generalization Instinct

Rarely are categories entirely distinct. When given categories, look for similarities between them, and look for differences within them.

Quite often, you can see that different categories are similar to each other, while within categories, there are some differences as well.

When someone says “The Majority”, do they mean 51%, or 99%? Becareful when hearing such general statements.

Don’t assume people are idiots. If a solution looks dumb to you, the other person might have a perfectly valid reason that we are unaware of.

7. The Destiny Instinct

Just because some has been for a long time, does not mean it will be forever. There is no destiny set for anyone, or anything.

Look out for gradual improvements. Even if the situation is still bad, there can still be positive progress.

Understand the context of culture. What happened in the past might be due to a different culture from today.

8. The Single Perspective Instinct

Don’t use the same approach, and learned expertise on all situations. Just because you are an expert in one field, does not mean you are an expert in related fields.

Look at problems from another perspective, and angles that lie outside of your expertise.

“Why Don’t You Just…” do something? Because you can’t, and things are usually not as simple as they seem to prescribe simple solutions that you can “just do”.

Constantly test your long held ideas about how you usually approach problems. Fine tune it by getting it critqued by other experts and non-experts.

9. The Blame Instinct

Look for Causes, not villians.

Look for Systems, not heroes.

Recognize a Scapegoat when you see one, and resist falling into the trap of identifying a scapegoat.

10. The Urgency Instinct

No, you don’t need it NOW, like how the media portrays it.

To control the sense of urgency, take small steps, and insist on data to prevent rash, unsubstantiated actions.

Beware of fortune tellers, and always ask for supporting evidence. Don’t be afraid to call someone out for not telling the truth.

It’s rarely a now or never situation.

End Remarks

I really liked the Blame instinct, Urgency instinct and Generalization instinct the most.

It seems like in today’s society, where its moving way faster than we want, and we’re loaded with so much information, we’re more likely to commit those fallicies.

Whenever you see an ad on your social media, that is always accompanied by a count down. “Buy Now! Or Miss This Great Deal Forever!”… and you see the same deal 3 months later. They’re playing on your urgency instinct, and no, you don’t need another gadget in your life.

The Blame instinct teaches us that outcomes are usually the cause of systems, and not people. Be it success or failure, the cause it almost always due to the circumstances/luck/network he exists in. Don’t attribute so much of the outcome to the person, but the more to the things around him.

Finally, the sweeping statements that are still prevalent. Aside from this particular sentence, ALL claims don’t usually apply to ALL circumstances. Never use the word “all”, and always question when you see the word “all”.


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