Factfulness 10 Rules of Thumb

6. Generalization

– Question your categories


Factfulness is . . . recognizing when a category is being used in an explanation, and remembering that categories can be misleading. We can’t stop generalization and we shouldn’t even try. What we should try to do is to avoid generalizing incorrectly.

To control the generalization instinct, question your categories.

• Look for differences within groups. Especially when the groups are large, look for ways to split them into smaller, more precise categories. And . . .

• Look for similarities across groups. If you find striking similarities between different groups, consider whether your categories are relevant. But also . . .

• Look for differences across groups. Do not assume that what applies for one group (e.g., you and other people living on Level 4 or unconscious soldiers) applies for another (e.g., people not living on Level 4 or sleeping babies).

• Beware of “the majority.” The majority just means more than half. Ask whether it means 51 percent, 99 percent, or something in between.

• Beware of vivid examples. Vivid images are easier to recall but they might be the exception rather than the rule.

• Assume people are not idiots. When something looks strange, be curious and humble, and think, In what way is this a smart solution?

Back to the list of 10 Factfulness rules of thumb

  1. Gap Instinct
  2. Negativity Instinct
  3. Straight Line Instinct
  4. Fear Instinct
  5. Size Instinct
  6. Generalization Instinct
  7. Destiny Instinct
  8. Single Instinct
  9. Blame Instinct
  10. Urgency Instinct


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Date Posted: 2018-03-11