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By Michael Le Page Three Rhesus monkeys in Bali, IndonesiaRobert Heathman / Alamy Stock Photo New Scientist readers are more knowledgeable than the general public and experts on some issues, but still score worse than monkeys on some questions. “To score worse than monkeys requires misconceptions,” Ola Rosling, author of Factfulness, told New Scientist Live on Thursday. Most people are not only ignorant about some basic facts about the world, they don’t even realise that they are ignorant, he said. For example, globally around 88 per cent of children are now vaccinated against at least one disease, but most people think the figure is much lower. Advertisement Given a choice between 20, 50 or 80 per cent, only around 15 per cent of people in countries such as the US and UK get the answer right in Rosling’s surveys. At a recent world health summit, only 27 per cent of attendees got it right. Nobel laureates and medical scientists would be outsmarted by monkeys randomly picking answers, he said. “Is IQ correlated with factual knowledge? Not in the fields we have tested so far,” said Rosling. In an online survey, 46 per cent of New Scientist readers got the answer right to the vaccination question – better than the experts. “In any other test, it would be seen as a huge failure,” he said. Ola Rosling on stage at New Scientist Live showing the distribution of number of correct answers for the Gapminder quiz. Only 36% of New Scientist readers performed better than a group of hypothetical chimps mashing randomly on a keyboard. On climate, New Scientist readers excelled. Asked what climate experts believe will happen to global temperatures over the next 100 years – warmer, same or cooler – 99 per cent opted for the right answer. In other surveys, the proportion getting this right ranges from 94 per cent in Hungary to just 76 per cent in Japan. In the US, 81 per cent get in right, and in the UK 87 per cent. New Scientist readers also did relatively well when asked if the proportion of the world’s population living in extreme poverty has halved, remained the same or doubled. In most countries, less than 10 per cent of people pick the right answer (it has halved). But 53 per cent of New Scientist readers got it right. Among the audience at the New Scientist Live talk, 81 per cent got it right. Read more: The world is getting better, so why are we convinced otherwise? But on questions about endangered species and world population trends, New Scientist readers scored worse than average. Overall, they got 3.9 out of 12 questions right. “That’s on par with monkeys,” Rosling said. The average score is just 2.2.   Ola Rosling on stage at New Scientist Live 2019. Rosling said his surveys aren’t rigorous and scientific. But he is making all the data freely available, and said he is happy to work with social scientists who would take a more rigorous approach. He also acknowledged that at least one of the questions is something of a trick question. The three endangered animals he picked – the tiger, panda and black rhino – are exceptional in that their numbers are increasing. But he said it is important to tell people about the successes, not least so we can understand what was done right and repeat it elsewhere. “I am not an optimist,” he said. But we should celebrate successes, so people realise it is possible to change things for the better, he said. More on these topics: vaccines endangered species population