Vorträge der Steirischen Gesellschaft für Psychologie

Vortrag auf Englisch, Diskussion auf Deutsch

Smart people tend not to realize how complicated the world is for most people. Some simply do not believe the results of functional literacy studies, which show that large numbers of adults cannot perform everyday tasks that might seem “mindlessly simple.” For example, a 1993 literacy survey of 16,000 American adults found that:

• 21% could perform the easiest (Level 1) tasks like locating one piece of information in a sports article, but they couldn’t complete tasks on the next tier.
• 27% could do most Level 2 tasks like locating two pieces of information in a sports article, but were stymied by Level 3.
• 32% could handle tasks like entering information given into an automobile maintenance record form, but failed at tasks more complicated.
• 17% could do Level 4 tasks like using a bus schedule to determine the appropriate bus for a given set of conditions, but could not clear the next hurdles.
• 3% could answer the most complex questions, like determining the total cost of carpet to cover a room (using a calculator).

More than missed buses is at stake. Health is a good example because it has life and death consequences. Three specific examples illustrate how the rising complexity of health self-care increases an individual’s risk of making health-damaging mistakes: managing a chronic illness such as diabetes, preventing accidental injury, and maintaining health in old age. We can reduce those risks for our patients, our families, and ourselves, however, by understanding what makes everyday tasks more complex.