Behavioral Trends: Homo Ignorans


Homo Ignorans


We think we know everything we need to know. We prefer the familiar to the unfamiliar. We surround ourselves with people who think like us. We fear being criticized and it is hard for us to change our mind. We crave conformity. We “voluntarily” blind ourselves to evidence and facts that contradict our beliefs.




People often think they’re good at something, and end up making a fool out of themselves. No matter if it’s an argument, a chore, or a talent, people’s brains often fool them into thinking they’re good enough to perform them successfully. When people are unskilled they can’t see their own faults, and when they are exceptionally competent they don’t perceive how unusual they abilities are. This cognitive bias is referred to as the Dunning-Kruger effect, and it can happen to anyone. It emerges from an inability to accurately recognise that we actually can or can’t perform the task at hand like we think we do: Our own ignorance about our abilities ends up hindering our capacities even further.

Homo Ignorans - Dunning-Kruger Effect



American investor Charlie Munger once told an anecdote, most likely false, about Max Planck. The famed physicist was attending a conference in Munich, where he would give the same memorised speech. His chauffeur was accompanying him, and proposed that he pretend to be Planck and give the speech. When he was finished, an audience member asked one of those pretentious questions, to which the chauffeur said: “I’m surprised that in a city as advanced as Munich, I’m being asked something so elementary. I’ll let my chauffer (Planck) answer the question.” In this humorous anecdote, two kinds of knowledge can be differentiated: genuine and superficial, the latter of which is preferred by specimens of Homo ignorans.

Homo Ignorans - Max Planck (article)


In a heated monologue on his show “El Loco Soy Yo”, Spanish journalist and presenter Jesús Quintero expresses his frustration at the way society has increasingly glorified ignorance. People read less and less, only wanting to consume the prepackaged. No more depth or challenges for the new generation of ignorants – only the shallow will suffice. His remarks are increasingly relevant, as the mainstream media caters even more to this growing demographic.

Homo Ignorans - There Have Always Been Illiterate People, Jesús Quintero


In 99 short chapters, Swiss author and entrepreneur Rolf Dobelli’s bestselling book The Art of Thinking Clearly explains how the reasoning process works – and how we can avoid ubiquitous “cognitive errors” in order to take the best decisions we can, and in general, thinking more sharply and precisely. After all, ignorance is a wilful choice – one that can be changed.

Homo Ignorans - The Art of Thinking Clearly


Every human being interprets new information in a way that reinforces the information they’ve previously acquired. Information that challenges those beliefs, values and ideas is typically ignored or disregarded. When the information isn’t clear, we’ll assume it supports our preexisting position. This is something we can’t escape, and it has a name – confirmation bias. The one way we can lessen its effects is through acquiring critical thinking skills and widening our education. Our emotional brains don’t like it, but we must train them to be more rational and objective.

Homo Ignorans - Confirmation Bias



It’s contradictory that, at a time where all of the world’s information is available at our fingertips, people are growing more and more ignorant. Not only are they unknowledgeable – they take pride in that fact. It seems that possessing knowledge is now a blemish in those people’s reputations: the less we know, the more socially acceptable we are. Either that, or it’s better to admit it with pride than to pretend to know about something they don’t.

Homo Ignorans - Deliberate Ignorance (article)


James “The Amazing” Randi was a world-renowned stage magician – but he openly admitted that his stunts were simple trickery, and was actually a major skeptic of supposed paranormal and occult powers. His dedication to debunking pseudocientific claims led him to establish the James Randi Educational Foundation, which sponsored the One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge, in which said amount of money would be awarded to any applicants who could demonstrate evidence of paranormal or supernatural powers. Though he performed incredible tricks and feats – like escaping from a straitjacket while suspended over the Niagara Falls – Randi consistently showed a commitment to the truth, revealing his tricks without a second guess.

Homo Ignorans - The Amazing Randi


Michael Carbonaro is an American magician and comedian, the host of the TruTV series “The Carbonaro Effect”, a  hidden-camera prank show where he bends the minds of unsuspecting witnesses using seemingly inexplicable tricks. Examples include wearing shoelaces that tie themselves, packing spherical objects in flat envelopes, and taking an insect out of an iPhone. Carbonaro exploits people’s willingness to believe in the unexplained to surprising comedic effect, challenging the boundaries of stage magic.

Homo Ignorans - The Carbonaro Effect


The 20th century’s sharp focus on science, and its eschewing of the spiritual and the unknown, led to the emergence of the New Age movement in its later decades: one that mixed and matched spiritual elements from ancient Eastern cultures with astrology, counterculture and even farfetched UFO religions from the 1950s. Its eclectic range of influences and activities has made it hard to define, but one thing that stuck was its denial of scientific consensus and its skepticism of institutions in favor of a more “spiritual” existence. Though it seems the movement has faded in the 21st century, its influence remains in other movements.

Homo Ignorans - New Age Movement



Umberto Eco was a prominent Italian philosopher, writer and semiotician. In the course of his prolific career, Eco became an authentic defender of knowledge: His two libraries contained over 50 thousand volumes between them, and he even founded an Italian skeptics’ association. Perhaps infamously, he stated that social media “gives legions of idiots (…) the same right to speak as a Nobel Prize winner”. His prescient words fall perfectly in line with the overwhelming reality: ignorance is seeping into every corner of human life.

Homo Ignorans - Umberto Eco (article)


Fascism is an extreme far-right ideology, rooted in totalitarianism and regulation of most areas of society. Emerging in Italy during World War I and eventually becoming the main cause of World War II, fascism exploited people’s ignorance and willingness to submit to populism, even outright brainwashing swaths of the population. The rise of fascism in Europe and Japan heeded a warning to future generations: ignorance is bound to make history repeat itself.

Homo Ignorans - Fascism



Those emotional, irate speeches that often come from authoritarian or populist leaders are likely to influence their followers more easily. Donald Trump, Hugo Chávez, Jair Bolsonaro, and Fidel Castro have all spoken fervently about their ideologies, often with catastrophic outcomes – like the recent storming of the US Capitol by a mob of emboldened Trump supporters. Incendiary speeches exploit echo chambers and the ignorance of followers and the general population, swaying opinions and resulting in events that may even derail a country.

Homo Ignorans - Incendiary Speeches (article)


Latin America has been marred by disadvantages throughout its history. The region, which has remained the only part of the world that hasn’t been constantly in international war in decades, is unfortunately a hub for illiteracy: whether genuine – people who can’t read or write – or functional – people who don’t read or write despite being able to do so. Countries like Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador have a nearly 20% illiteracy rate, and according to the NOP World CultureScore Index, only Venezuela and Argentina spent over 5 hours per week on average on reading. This paints a worrisome portrait of the region’s knowledge: How are we supposed to progress if we don’t even inform ourselves?

Homo Ignorans - Illiteracy in Latin America (article)


Fallacies are a distortion of reasoning itself, used to construct misleading arguments. The goal is to manipulate or persuade using deception, purposefully exploiting people’s ignorance. Several kinds of fallacies exist, most can be categorised into formal – those which have a flaw in deductive structure – and informal fallacies – errors in reasoning –. Informal fallacies are the most hazardous, as they pose the threat of making opposing arguments crumble if not identified and addressed correctly.

Homo Ignorans - Logical Fallacies



How many misattributed quotes have you heard? People have misplaced a concerning amount of words in Einstein and Shakespeare’s mouths and gotten away with it for too long. Quote Investigator takes on the arduous task of verifying the accuracy of those throwaway quotes, carefully checking who – if anyone – actually said those words. So, next time someone claims any influential person said something, Quote Investigator is the place to verify.

Homo Ignorans - Quote Investigator


Misinformation, conspiracy and scandalous claims are all rooted in ignorance and deception. It’s the task of skeptics and scientists to disprove and disengage the creators and believers of such claims. The Skeptics Society is a nonprofit organization that promotes critical thinking and serves as a reference for those who want a sound viewpoint rooted in science and logic – not pseudoscience and emotions.

Homo Ignorans - Skeptics Society


The way we write is defined by our knowledge of language and the references we consume. Grammar is, of course, essential in shaping the presentation of our written thoughts. If we’re not careful, spoken words can often take precedence over those on the page, and we can commit grammar sins. Grammarly is a tool that checks for conciseness, clarity, sentence structure, redundancy, and a plethora of other common grammar mistakes in English. No matter how frugal the content, if your text is grammatically appropriate, it’s a surefire indicator of your intellect.

Homo Ignorans - Grammarly


A 2010 campaign in commemoration of Book Day, by the Brazilian Book Chamber, involved placing easily-removable postcards that stated “pág.” (an abbreviation for page) next to street numbers in an undisclosed city, turning entire streets into books. An ingenious way of promoting reading, the campaign feeds into our innate sense of curiosity, encouraging us to pick up that book we’ve been putting off.

Homo Ignorans - Pág Reading Campaign


In recent years, the anti-vaccine movement has gained prominence, although it’s existed since the very first vaccine was developed in the 1790s by Edward Jenner. Motivated by a plethora of reasons, anti-vaxxers have claimed that vaccines are actually harmful to children and the population in general, instead choosing to unleash their children into a vaccinated world, where they most likely will get infected with a deadly pathogen and die. Ignorance is making parents put their children at risk of deadly infection, and in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, this mindset might put the entire world population at risk.

Homo Ignorans - Anti-Vax Movement



Manmade climate change has been a threat since the Industrial Revolution, and scientists have noticed the correlation between rising CO2 levels and temperature rises, as well as more frequent and extreme climate phenomena ravaging the world – as early as the 1970s. The corporations that are mostly responsible for this have invested a considerable amount of money in obscuring, discrediting or downplaying this information, in turn delaying the response of governments around the world to this mounting crisis. Not only are ordinary people denying science and the incoming doom that faces the Earth, but politicians and people responsible for taking measures too, perhaps making simple ignorance the cause for the end of sustainable life on Earth.

Homo Ignorans - Climate Change Denial



Mexico’s president from 2018 to 2024 has consistently performed acts of ignorance, from claiming that “governance isn’t rocket science”, to calling terms like empathy, resilience and holistic neoliberal technicisms for which there should be a dictionary. This level of ignorance from the leader of Latin America’s second-largest economy says a lot about the state – and fate – of the country.

Homo Ignorans - Andrés Manuel López Obrador



Carl Sagan was an influential astronomer, cosmologist, science communicator and author, whose research on extraterrestrial life was a significant scientific contribution. Sagan was also known for being a skeptic and a critic of human ignorance. He often discussed how, if extraterrestrial life was to observe us from outside, they would most likely agree that Earth was “the planet of the idiots”.

Homo Ignorans - Carl Sagan



Isaac Asimov was a celebrated American author and biochemist, whose prolific works shaped the science fiction genre, even coining the term “robotics”. As a highly knowledgeable person, Asimov often criticised the ascent of ignorance in his country, dedicating an entire column, titled “A Cult of Ignorance”, to the topic. He argues that neurotypical people should be able to learn a great amount of information, which makes ignorance inexcusable.

Homo Ignorans - Isaac Asimov (pdf)


The political systems as described by ancient Greek philosophers – monarchy, aristocracy, democracy – can all devolve into despotic systems: tyranny, oligarchy and ochlocracy, respectively. The term ochlocracy means “the rule of the mob”, and refers to the control of society by vicious, irrational mobs, the ultimate degeneration of power. Ochlocrats seek to maintain an illusory legitimacy by manipulating the most ignorant segments of society, making ochlocracy an increasingly likely possibility in the future.

Homo Ignorans - Ochlocracy



Astrophycisist Neil deGrasse Tyson once narrated how people, upon seeing an UFO – unidentified flying object – immediately tried to explain what it might be. He emphasises the “unidentified” in UFO, stating that people should refrain from trying to identify it. Those arguments, he states, are arguments from ignorance – and they come from a burning need to know the meaning of something.

Homo Ignorans - Argument from Ignorance


The inspiration for the Dunning–Kruger effect, which also exemplifies this trend, came from a bank robbery case in 1995, where a middle-aged man robbed two banks in Pittsburgh without any form of disguise. Once he was arrested and shown the tapes, he was in disbelief to seeing his face – he wore lemon juice to make himself invisible to the cameras! Since lemon juice is used as invisible ink, he thought the same logic extended to his face. Turns out his massive ignorance was ultimately the cause of his demise – and the inspiration for the psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger.

Homo Ignorans - Lemon Juice Bank Robber (article)


Hunting wildlife is a highly controversial pastime, and increasingly frowned upon as more and more species go extinct. Hollywood director Steven Spielberg found himself in the middle of that controversy in 2014 when he posted a picture of himself posing next to a dead triceratops prop from his Jurassic Park films on social media. The reaction from ignorant people was swift, condemning and shaming Spielberg for killing such a “rare animal” – failing to realise that triceratops have been extinct for millennia.

Homo Ignorans - Spielberg Hunts a Triceratops (article)


Social media has altered the way we consume news. We no longer need to read the full article – a headline is enough, we can imagine the rest. Likewise, we don’t even need a source to believe what is said. Twitter has been the main stage for this democratisation and extreme simplification of media and, as a consequence, the perfect breeding ground for fake news and misinformation. Someone on Twitter said it, and that’s good enough for many of us. We’re ignorant by choice, and we consume whatever (mis)information comes our way.

Homo Ignorans - Twitter


Social media was conceived as a way for us to keep in touch with the people and topics we’re interested in. By definition, most of what we see on these platforms is catered to and centered around us. So it’s no surprise that when algorithms started taking over, they started repeating to us what we already liked and believed in, no matter if it’s politics, news, or music taste. These collections of one-sided, biased information are called filter bubbles, and they make up a large amount of what we call “echo chambers”: fragmented online spaces where all information strengthens the opinions you already have. Those spaces make it difficult to acquire nuance and better understand opposing perspectives, isolating you and your opinions with a dogmatic group of like-minded people. Our ignorance can be definitely powered by comfort.

Homo Ignorans - Echo Chambers & Filter Bubbles



The first pandemic in a hundred years has unraveled in a context of significant technological advancement, which has propelled the spread of both the virus and the incredible amounts of misinformation around it. Dubbed an “infodemic”, this phenomenon includes WhatsApp chain messages, clickbait articles and even misleading Tweets by the president of the United States. Everything from homemade remedies and injecting yourself with detergent, to claims of mutating if you take the vaccine – there was no topic on which there wasn’t countless ludicrous claims.

Homo Ignorans - COVID-19 Infodemic (article)


Since its early days, the Internet has been known for the amount of hoaxes, urban legends, horror stories and fake news that populate it. How do we know what’s true and what’s not, when there’s no reliable source around? We check Snopes, of course. The legendary website has been through thick and thin, documenting most of the Internet’s dubious claims and reporting on their veracity – a true beacon of truth amid the sea of deception that is the World Wide Web.

Homo Ignorans - Snopes


We’ve all seen headlines that poke at our curiosity. An enticing mystery that can be solved with just a click. We’re lured into clicking the link to find – it wasn’t as interesting a mystery as we were led onto, and the website just made revenue off our desire to know. Clickbait has been part of social media for years now, and it’s unlikely to go away anytime soon. This is why the Facebook page Stop Clickbait exists, to save us a click and even get a laugh out of us when we see the kinds of foolish content people milk clicks out of.

Homo Ignorans - Stop Clickbait



Filter bubbles populate every corner of social media, and bias permeates even the most “reputable” media outlet. Whether a left- or right-wing lean, every article is meant to pique our interest and influence our beliefs, if not outright reinforce them. AllSides is a news aggregator that aims to provide multiple perspectives on the same topic, to allow users to make their own opinions and escape the echo chamber constructed by the media.

Homo Ignorans - AllSides


In his book “The Death of Expertise”, author Tom Nichols proposes that the average American is growing more and more ignorant, yet still believes themself to know everything there is to know about everything. Expert opinions hold less and less weight in today’s time, and emboldened people debate each other on topics they actually know barely anything about. Social media, sensationalism and the American school system are all factors that he details in the book, questioning how such a cycle of ignorance came to be and how to get out of it.

Homo Ignorans - The Death of Expertise (article)


Librería Gandhi is a Mexican bookstore and coffee shop well known for their clever and sarcastic advertisements, all poking fun at low readership rates in Mexico, and encouraging people to read. Strikingly simple design – black letters on a yellow background – sets the stage for the humorous ads, which have boosted the popularity of the bookstore and (hopefully) encouraged more Mexicans to read.

Homo Ignorans - Librería Gandhi


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