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You Probably Know Much Less About The World Than You Think

People in Italy and the US top the list of those most likely to be wrong about basic facts related to their country.

Posted on August 30, 2018, at 12:45 p.m. ET

People in Italy are the most likely to be wrong about basic facts related to their country, closely followed by Americans.

Max Rossi / Reuters

That's one of the findings of a new book based on 50,000 interviews carried out in 13 countries.

The Perils of Perception: Why We're Wrong About Nearly Everything says that people know much less about the world around them than they think they do.

For example, when people in the US were asked what proportion of the population is Muslim, the average guess was 16.6%, while in reality the answer is 1%.

Following Italy and the US on the "misperceptions index" are France, Australia, Belgium, Canada, and Spain. Out of the 13 countries, Poland is ranked eighth and Britain ninth, while the "least wrong" countries are Japan, South Korea, Germany, and — least wrong of all — Sweden.

Yay, Sweden.
Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

Yay, Sweden.

The book's author, Bobby Duffy, managing director of the Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute, told BuzzFeed News that there's not one single reason to explain why Italy and the US are the "most wrong" countries. And he says blaming politicians and the media for misleading people is too easy an answer.

Pool / Getty Images

However, Duffy acknowledges that we are in a “really dangerous period for misperceptions” because of the role of social media and other online sources of information in people’s lives, particularly when it comes to confirmation biases — where people look for information that confirms already held views.

Christophe Simon / AFP / Getty Images

Measuring misperceptions, Duffy says, is important as it shows what people are worried about, as people’s emotions play a huge role in their estimates. It also reveals areas where we’re not worried enough, such as public health.

But people should not feel bad about their own misperceptions, he says.

"It’s personally exhausting to think everything is terrible and getting worse — but it’s also dangerous, because it leaves space for extremists to get the message out that given everything is terrible, we should tear it all up and start again. So we should fight that — start by thinking the world is better than you think!"

With that said, take the quiz below to see how much you know about the world, and see which country on the "misperceptions index" you most resemble — are you an Italy or a Sweden?

Note: The quiz includes questions from other countries not included in the misperceptions index of 13. Some countries were not surveyed at all.Data sources for the answers are a range of national and international official bodies, including the World Health Organization, Euromonitor, and the World Bank.
Francois Lenoir / Reuters

Note: The quiz includes questions from other countries not included in the misperceptions index of 13. Some countries were not surveyed at all.

Data sources for the answers are a range of national and international official bodies, including the World Health Organization, Euromonitor, and the World Bank.

  1. 1.

    What percentage of Italy's population are immigrants?
    Correct
    Incorrect
    9.4%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    26%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    54.6%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    19.2%
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    The average guess in Italy was 26%, but the correct answer is 9.4%. One of the most common misperceptions among people is overestimating the number of immigrants in their country.

  2. 2.

    What percentage of people in the US aged over 13 have a Facebook account?
    Correct
    Incorrect
    93%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    74.9%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    57.6%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    64.2%
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    The average guess in the US was 74.9%, but in reality only 57.6% of over-13s have a Facebook account.

  3. 3.

    What percentage of women aged 15 to 19 in France give birth each year?
    Correct
    Incorrect
    18%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    10.2%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    0.9%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    29.1%
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    The average guess in France was 18%, but the correct answer is much smaller — just 0.9%.

  4. 4.

    Is the murder rate in Sweden higher, lower, or about the same as it was in 2000?
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Higher
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Lower
    Correct
    Incorrect
    About the same
  5. 5.

    What percentage of Turkey's population are Muslim?
    Correct
    Incorrect
    81.3%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    98%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    72.8%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    57%
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    The average guess in Turkey was 81.3%, a rare example of a country underestimating the number of Muslim residents.

  6. 6.

    What percentage of prisoners in Germany were born in a foreign country?
    Correct
    Incorrect
    52%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    22.1%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    45%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    31.3%
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    The average guess in Germany was 45%, but the correct answer is 31.3%.

  7. 7.

    What percentage of people in Poland are Muslim?
    Correct
    Incorrect
    7.3%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    <0.1%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    9.2%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    15.3%
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    The correct answer is under 0.1% of the population, but the average guess in Poland was 7.3%.

  8. 8.

    What percentage of Israel's population are immigrants?
    Correct
    Incorrect
    59%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    24%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    32.2%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    26.5%
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    The average guess in Israel was 24% — one of the rare occasions where people underestimated the proportion of immigrants.

  9. 9.

    What percentage of total household wealth do the wealthiest 1% own in Belgium?
    Correct
    Incorrect
    18%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    50%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    30%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    7%
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    The average guess in Belgium was 50%, but the correct answer was much lower.

  10. 10.

    What percentage of people in Australia say they are rather happy or very happy?
    Correct
    Incorrect
    53.1%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    94%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    65.3%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    81.7%
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    The average guess in Australia was 53.1%.

  11. 11.

    What percentage of people in Saudi Arabia aged over 20 are overweight or obese?
    Correct
    Incorrect
    42%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    28%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    13%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    71%
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    The correct answer here is 71%, but the average guess in Saudi Arabia was 28%.

  12. 12.

    Is the murder rate in South Africa higher, lower, or about the same as it was in 2000?
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Higher
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Lower
    Correct
    Incorrect
    About the same
  13. 13.

    What percentage of people in China over 13 have a Facebook account?
    Correct
    Incorrect
    6.7%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    10.2%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    20.7%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    0.1%
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    The average guess in China was 20.7%, despite Facebook being blocked in the country.

  14. 14.

    What percentage of Brazil's population are immigrants?
    Correct
    Incorrect
    14.3%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    0.3%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    8%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    25%
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    The average guess in Brazil was 25%, despite the real answer being just 0.3%.

  15. 15.

    What percentage of people in Chile are Muslim?
    Correct
    Incorrect
    8.1%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    11.3%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    <0.1%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    21%
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    The average guess in Chile was 8.1%.

  16. 16.

    Is the murder rate in Mexico higher, lower, or about the same as it was in 2000?
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Higher
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Lower
    Correct
    Incorrect
    About the same
  17. 17.

    What percentage of people in South Korea aged over 20 are overweight or obese?
    Correct
    Incorrect
    32%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    3%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    22%
    Correct
    Incorrect
    48%
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    The average guess in South Korea was 32% — the correct answer!

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