Factfulness Summary: 4 most important instinct


In this article, we will summarise a global bestseller Factfulness written by Hans Rosling, Ola, and Anna Rosling. 

Some might already know or have read this book because it got really famous. Recommended by Obama and Bill Gates. Gates even distributed this book for free to students for a limited time. We think this book is important in this era of the Internet where information is flying around everywhere. So, this book is about the importance of getting war situations right, being informed correctly and not from the land of mass media which often only portrayed the worst pictures of our war world.

About the Authors:

We will state the conclusion of this book first to set direction and followed by the important points we have picked up. So before moving on to the actual part, let get introduce to the authors of this book,  Hans Rosling Rosling. He was a medical doctor and professor of international health at  Karolinska Institute which is a University in Sweden. He was also nominated as the world’s 100 most influential people in 2012.

Ola Rosling is a statistician and the chairman, director,  co-founder of the Gapminder Foundation which promotes the UN sustainable development goals by increasing the use and understanding of statistics of social-economic and environment development. 

Anna Rosling wife of Ola Rosling, She’s also the co-founder of the Gapminder  Foundation.

Conclusion of the book:

Conclusion of this book  Factfulness is we have various instincts to get facts wrong on many things that are around us and in the world.  To get our facts right we need to understand our 10 instincts to obtain Factfulness. So, as mentioned in the conclusion there are 10 types of instincts discussed in the book but we have picked up four points which we personally thought were more significant.  

The four points are negativity instinct, fear instinct, size instinct, and blame instinct. So, without further ado let’s get started.

Negativity instinct:

The first point is on the negativity instinct. Negativity instinct is our tendency to realize more of our bad things than good things. This very nature of the human instinct is the reason why we have more of our attention to plane crashes, child deaths, and endangered species than to good improvements of this world. Actually  Tigers, Black Rhinos, and Giant Pandas were listed as endangered back in 1986, but none of them are actually on the list today. Did you know? For those who didn’t know, you might say “oh it’s due to a  media for highlighting the bad excessively and few good things”. We totally agree with you but we also understand that reporting on bad incidents gets more views than good things, which is what media are fighting for. So, Hans Rosling states that “To achieve Factfulness, we need to recognize that more bad news will enter our ears.  When things are improving, we don’t usually hear them. This makes us hold a too negative image of the world. So to combat our  negativity instinct, we need to expect  bad news but also understand that more  bad news does not equal to more  suffering.”

Fear Instinct:

The second point is the fear instinct. Fear instinct is being afraid of things that could hurt us. Such as violence and being held in captivity.  These make us overestimate those risks.  Try guessing the death percentages caused by some of the terrifying events like a natural disaster, plane crash, murders, nuclear leaks, terrorism annually. Here’s the answer all of them are less than 1% and they still have enormous media coverage. From looking at this Hans Rosling states that frightening and dangerous are two different things.  Dangerous poses a real threat but frightening doesn’t.

So, to overcome this fear instinct we have to calculate “Risks” which is danger multiplied by exposure so the risk is determined by how dangerous is the incident and how exposed are we to the incident.

Size  Instinct:

So the third point is the size instinct. Size instinct is when we see a  figure, we often feel impressed with the figure. So to explain this I’ll provide a  story of Hans Rosling himself when he was the only doctor in a Nacala district of  Mozambique. The medical facility and nurses that were available at that time were poor. On weekend Hans Rosling had to go to the hospital for emergency So after treating the patient Hans Rosling thought and did his maths. That year 946 children have admitted to his hospital in which 52 of them died.  This is around 5%. Then he compares it to the figure with a number of child deaths in the whole district.  So, the child mortality rate of  Mozambique was 26%, which also equals one of the Nacala district. The child mortality rate was calculated by the number  of child deaths of the year divided by the number of births of the year. So the available census at that time was three thousand births each year in the city. Nacala district is five times the population of the city. So to estimate the birth rate to be five times as well making it fifteen thousand so twenty-six percent of fifteen thousand births, make it three thousand nine hundred this was the number of deaths and only fifty-two were at the hospital. So, this means he was only seeing 1.3 percent of the people who needed their deaths to be prevented. Hence, to save the other ninety-eight point seven percent he had to devote himself to train other local doctors and nurses and not just care about the children in front of them. So,  this is what the other Swedish doctor did not see and understand. To have Factfulness, we have to control the size instinct by getting things in proportion.  What this means is that we always need to compare the number we see with something that we can compare to ideally.  Divided the numbers against the total to see the rates especially when comparing between countries and regions.

Blame  instinct:

The last point is on blaming. Blame instinct is our tendency of putting faults on others which blocks us from thinking other possible explanations on why a problem occurred and therefore prevents us from thinking of solutions to avoid similar problems in the future. To avoid this Hans Rosling states that “we need to resist finding a scapegoat” instead look for causes not villains, look for systems, not heroes.


The conclusion is “We have various instincts which make us get our facts wrong. So we need to  understand and control them to obtain  Factfulness.”

Hope you liked the summary. Stay tuned for many more.

A good to have book in your collection:

Other Interesting reads:

“Blue Ocean Strategy: How To Create Your Own!”

“Business Adventures- 5 Most Important Case Studies”

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