Tonight, I took the Pew Research News IQ Quiz. It is a set of 12 questions on current events and people. At the end of the quiz, the site asks you some basic demographic info about you. I was surprised at my results: I apparently had a perfect score.
But what was more interesting was the graphs showing my percentile rank vs. others.
Other than the obvious, my overall results does not show much, in my opinion. There were only 12 questions, so missing one question could prove bring someone down a good percentage. I would think that 50 questions would be better. But given the short attention of the Internet, I think I understand why quiz needed to be short and sweet.
The gender results are quite interesting. I am not exactly sure what the percentiles mean relative to my percentile score, but the graph definitely shows that men pay more attention to the news than women. There, I said it. I am sure that there are very smart women in the world, but statistics don’t lie. In America, most women just don’t care about current events.
Take my wife, for example, she buys newspapers for the coupons. She reads comics and the Parade Magazine that is included in the Sunday edition, but that’s about it for the newspaper. On the Internet, she mostly reads are the silly stories that show how stupid people can be (via Digg or Reddit). She is a smart cookie, but I do think she can answer most of the questions on the quiz. I sent her the link to the quiz, so I will see in the next few days,
In one aspect, this graph is not surprising. The older you are, the more you know current events. I remember when dad was alive, he read the newspaper a lot. He not only read the newspaper every day, read every single bit of it. Just like my dad, people 50+ like to read the paper or watch the news.
Under the covers, a disturbing fact also shows. The gap between 18-29 and the 30-49 group is huge, which can only mean that people under 30 are living under a rock. With the abundant amount of news available on the Internet, one would think that the most tech savvy group would excel. What can I say? This group is more interested browsing social networking sites that learning current events.
What’s worse? This graph only shows results from people who actually took this test! I think if you were to ask people in the 18-29 group these question on the street, I would imagine most of them will not get half the questions correct. Hey, you can even see evidence of this on The Tonight Show whenever Jay Leno does his Jaywalking segments.
The educated reads more than the uneducated, so this graph does not surprise me either. But, like the results by age group, the gap between a high school graduate and a college graduate is huge. What is not clear is why. There are many people who don’t go to the college. Some are educated in a trade skill, which does not count as college by my understanding.
My dad, who I mention earlier, falls into the category. He did not go to any college, but he was a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Army and in the radio and television electrician by trade. So, if he were alive today, what would he get on this test? I think that he would have scored well, because of his reading habits. Without that habit, I think he may be close to the 29th percentile.
Taking this test, it occurred to me that key skills to knowledge is the ability to read, the ability to pay attention, and the discipline to care. Without those skills, one become a empty shell of a human with little understanding of the real world. I think it ultimately shapes the personality, the perceptions, the biases, and the fears that make up one self.