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20 Types of Illiteracy

Kate Mulcahy . . . Comments

Ensuring a high level of reading literacy has become a priority of many governments around the world. However, what is often forgotten is that there is more than one type of illiteracy, and not all are addressed during formal education. Many of these can be just as debilitating as an inability to read, but go unnoticed because the wider community is unaware of their existence. A few, such as scientific and functional illiteracy, have even resulted in death for some unfortunate people. These are a global problem because adults generally express some degree of at least one. Work out how many you might have.


Agricultural Illiteracy


This is the ability to understand information regarding agriculture. For those who work as farmers, this is rarely a problem, but to a city-dweller, reading that “90% of farmland was lost due to drought” might not seem a serious problem due to an utter lack of understanding of how farming works. People who are agriculturally illiterate fail to understand how important agriculture is, how dependent we all are on it, and make statements like “lack of farmland never causes famines, it’s just farmers being unreasonable and complaining” or “if they can grow this food overseas, then we can grow it here just as easily.”


Computer Illiteracy

Apple-Imac 0

Computer illiteracy is a specific form of technological illiteracy. It is the lack of ability to use computers at a basic level, often despite being shown how to use them. Being unable to turn a computer on, thinking that a mouse needs to be fed, or trying to click by snapping one’s fingers are real examples of computer illiteracy. People who are computer illiterate, an increasingly disabling trait in modern society, say things like “I’ll ring you on your email number” and “I deleted the internet. How do I fix it?”


Critical Illiteracy


This form of illiteracy is where someone is able read text and to understand its overall meaning, but lacks the ability to think about it critically and consider the possibility of unreliable or biased information. Gullible people often have critical illiteracy. The statement “all people who were democratic in the nineteenth century are now dead, so democracy kills people!” is taken as fact, and the underlying political agenda or the actuality that the data does not support said agenda is missed. Critical illiteracy is taken advantage of by many forms of media to present opinions as fact.


Cultural Illiteracy


Everyone belongs to a culture of some sort. Cultural illiteracy is a lack of familiarity with one’s culture. This often becomes apparent when common sayings are misunderstood, or when references to folklore are completely missed. Although we are all culturally illiterate to many other cultures, those who are illiterate of their own culture lack a feeling of comfort when surrounded by what should be familiar memes. A British person thinking that “porky-pies” require pastry, an Australian thinking that “bogans” are from Bougainville, or a Chinese thinking that “Buddha jumps over the wall” actually involves Buddha are strong examples.


Ecological Illiteracy

Cumulus Clouds In Fair Weather

No matter how far we try to remove ourselves from the natural world, we are still dependent on the Earth’s resources. Ensuring that environments are maintained in turn helps us maintain our own way of living. Ecological illiteracy is the inability to understand this, and the belief that we are not actually dependent on the Earth. People who feel this way are quick to damage the environment for pleasure, and make statements like “the Earth can support as many humans as we want; population control is unnecessary” and “recycling is a waste of time.”


Emotional Illiteracy


People who are emotionally illiterate are unable to properly understand the emotions of themselves and of others. They often do not realize when they are behaving erratically due to anger or stress, and thus are less likely to recognize and stop destructive behaviors. They are poor at interpreting the emotions of others and often attribute laughing or crying as deliberate attempts to annoy. These people often have trouble expressing themselves and seem to respond oddly or even inappropriately in some situations. A person who laughs hysterically when they hear a friend has died, despite feeling sad, may be emotionally illiterate.


Financial Illiteracy


People who feel overwhelmed when the topic of budgets comes up may suffer from some degree of financial illiteracy. These include people who spend money irresponsibly, such as using a week’s pay to buy a video game when bills are due, or not saving money for future hardships. Frighteningly, many adults when surveyed state that they are financially literate, yet are unable to solve simple finance problems, showing that many suffer from a false sense of security. Although the level varies between countries, between 30% and 50% of adults are financially illiterate, and is a strong predictor of future poverty.


Functional Illiteracy


Conservative estimates state that 20% of all adults are functionally illiterate. This means that they can read or hear words and understand their meanings, but cannot properly comprehend the meaning of a sentence as a whole, and are unaware that they lack this perception. At an extreme level, the words in “beware of the dog” are individually understood, but the meaning of required cautiousness is lost. At a more common level, a statement like “genetics is bad” shows that someone lacks a basic understanding of what genetics is yet thinks their knowledge comprehensive enough to make decisive statements.


Health Illiteracy


Health illiteracy is the inability to understand basic healthcare facts, causing an inability to make good health decisions. In developed countries about 10% of adults have health illiteracy. These people are eager to believe audacious health claims, despite a massive amount of evidence to the contrary, and will undergo dramatic and often dangerous lifestyle changes as a result. Unfortunately this often affects their trusting children. Beliefs such as “doctors are paid by corporations to kill patients,” “immunizations do more harm than good,” and “vegan diets are healthy for newborns” have lead and continue to cause poor health and even death.


Information Illiteracy

Head 1512924C

Information illiteracy is the inability to realize when one’s own knowledge or understanding has reached its limit. The information illiterate is the person who argues despite having been proven wrong, or the person who does not realize they are making a fool of themselves when speaking to a room of experts about a topic they themselves know little about. Information illiterate people are unable to see their own intellectual faults. It has been said that a truly educated person is aware of the limits of their knowledge, and, sadly, over 60% of adults have some degree of information illiteracy.


Media Illiteracy


We rely on a variety of media to provide us with useful information about the wider world. Unfortunately, in order to maximize profits, or to simply stay in business, many media companies sensationalize situations to attract a larger audience. As a result, much of what we hear has been skewed a certain amount. A specific type of critical illiteracy, media illiteracy causes people to interpret everything heard in the media as fact. Statements like “I heard it on TV, it must be true!” and “the news would never lie” are signs of media illiteracy.


Mental Health Illiteracy


Mental health illiteracy is a type of health illiteracy. It is an unawareness or misunderstanding of mental disorders, making problems difficult to recognize or treat. This is the husband who interprets his wife’s talk of suicide as meaningless, or the mother who thinks her son’s eating disorder is merely a phase. Negative and incorrect media portrayals of mental disorders and psychiatric care make this illiteracy common. A widespread but much milder expression of mental health illiteracy is the belief that “shyness isn’t a normal mental state, and if you overcome it you’ll be happier.”


Numerical Illiteracy

Mackintosh Numbers

Numerical illiteracy, or a lack of numeracy, is a lack of the basic arithmetic skills that are required in day-to-day life. Simple tasks, like calculating 50% off a price, are very difficult for numerically illiterate people. Although related to statistical illiteracy, numerical illiteracy includes not noticing anything amiss when a merely buying a liter of juice is charged at over one hundred dollars due to a machine error, and may find themselves the victims of extortion without ever realizing it. Although this extreme version of the illiteracy is rare, over half of all adults suffer from mild numerical illiteracy.


Racial Illiteracy


Racial illiteracy is the inability to understand issues connected with race and racism. A student claiming that a teacher failed him purposely “because he’s black” may be suffering from racial illiteracy. Similarly, people who hold incorrect or generalizing beliefs about races also suffer from racial illiteracy. The damaging stereotypical views that “all Asians are smart” or “all white people are rich” are both expressions of not only prejudice and ignorance, but of racial illiteracy.


Reading and Writing Illiteracy


This is what most people think of when they hear the word “illiteracy.” This is the basic inability to understand or produce written information. There are several degrees of illiteracy, such as understanding individual letters but not whole words, understanding some words but not enough to understand a sentence, and not recognizing letters or words at all. Through more widely-available education, world illiteracy has more than halved in the last fifty years. This means that even people living in the poorest countries enjoy better lives as they are able to read medicine instructions or avoid drinking water signposted as “poisonous.”


Scientific Illiteracy


Science is a carefully built framework of all known truths to humanity. If a scientific hypothesis is disproved, it is either altered or discarded, and thus up-to-date science is never wrong. Science is self-correcting and reflects the culmination of all knowledge at any point in time. Sadly, 75% of adults are scientifically illiterate. These people make statements like “people who drive expensive cars live longer, so if I buy a nice car I’ll live longer too,” even though the car does not cause a long life span but rather both are probably caused by a higher socioeconomic status. Other illiterate statements include “science has proven it to be good for you” and “it’s only a scientific theory, it might not be true.”


Statistical Illiteracy


People who are statistically illiterate fail to grasp that statistics can be presented in ways to mislead. These people feel that if numbers or data support a particular idea, then it must have merit. Closely linked to critical and numerical illiteracy, a person who is statistically illiterate will interpret the statements “10% of people are allergic to peanuts” and “90% of people are not allergic to peanuts” differently, despite the fact that they say the same thing. Believing that gambling is financially beneficial in the long term is unfortunately common for those with statistical illiteracy.


Technological Illiteracy


A person who is technologically illiterate has trouble learning to use new technologies as they become available. Learning new things, especially as an adult, can be slow, but these people find themselves baffled by relatively simple items like binoculars despite being patiently taught to use them hundreds of times. Not understanding a technology because of a lack of contact with it is normal, but not understanding it when exposed to it and when taught several times is illiteracy. These people can experience great trouble in keeping up with modern society.



Magritte Thesonofman

A trans-illiterate person is unable to transfer information from one form of media to another. For example, they may be able to understand a picture, but have trouble describing it or writing about it. Trans-illiterate people have trouble applying the information they gather from various sources to their daily lives, such as a person who reads that junk food is bad but never thinks to limit their own consumption of junk food. In a society where we are constantly fed information from all kinds of sources, the ability to apply what we know easily and smoothly is becoming increasingly useful.


Visual Illiteracy


Visual illiteracy is the inability to understand or process information in visual form. These people struggle to read graphs and info graphics. Specific types of brain damage can cause an innate inability to understand and recognize faces or vision entirely, but most people with visual illiteracy have no such underlying cause. A form of visual illiteracy that all people have at one point but most grow out of is seen in young toddlers. They will tend to think that when a single biscuit is broken in half, the two pieces represent more food than the original biscuit. Similarly, four grapes close together are seen as “more grapes” than the same four grapes spaced far apart. [Full infographic can be found here]

  • grosenberg

    Great List and probably one that could be added to. I have to go brush up on a few things :)

    • Dave

      Haha, it’s an interesting list, although I wonder how many of these have any sort of scientific validity as opposed to just being odd personality quirks.

      • Zach

        Where I come from, we just call most of these “stupidity.”

  • Black Ninja Cat

    Kate needs her own website – so that she’ll stop writing for listverse! What happened to the bizarre lists that first brought people here?! I miss NOT being bored to death…

    • Terry

      What’s wrong with you?

      • Lolcat killer

        He has list illiteracy. He can’t understand or appreciate good lists.

        • trooper009

          Then it should be 21 Types of Illiteracy, eh?

          • Jrod

            Oh , what repartee.

          • SmilingLisa

            Actually, #22 should cover you guys… Humor illiteracy.


        • Jono

          Yes, he has a terminal case of illisteracy.

        • Dave

          Haha, great answer. I just think it’s kind of odd to criticize anyone’s work from the comments section. It doesn’t accomplish anything except discouraging people, in my opinion.

    • Miriam

      State schooling is a joke when it comes to real lnnaeirg (private too). I am not stupid (just ignorant) but if I had a choice I would have found a way to skip formal schooling and made my own way. The employe route would be narrowed. Seeing how that becoming less viable, I would not miss it. Formal schooling has shown me that being your own person gets you punish in formal life. Dropping out is not the end of hope. It is the choice to quit someone else game. Hard choices to serve in Hell or be hunted in Hell. Hard choice.

    • New superstar

      Agreed… KM’s lists are the most stupidiest ever on listverse…..

  • Cludo

    Excellent list – I had no idea about most of these!

  • Don

    I work in IT, and let me tell you, the computer illiteracy examples are much more common than people would like to think. You tell someone to move the mouse over to an icon, and they pick up the mouse and physically put it over where the icon is on the screen. Does my head in daily.

    • The website is a good source of this kind of humor.

      • luvshorror

        Randomtask09-Thank you, now I have another bookmark. Funny site.
        And this was a very informative list. Interesting how many actors have medical illiteracy and still spout off and how many people with media illiteracy listen to them.

  • Frustrated

    Sooo many people I can think of have about half of these. I think just about every inane comment you ever hear fits into at least one category.

  • shubham

    Yaa realy great list
    i think i know a buddy u have one of this

  • #12: Jenny McCarthy is in serious need to comprehend this.

    • luvshorror

      Exactly first thing I thought. That bitch has probably destroyed many lives with her babble.

  • Neil

    MEDIA??? LOL!!! IRONIC!!

    • Iron Man

      What kind of illiteracy is it where someone doesn’t understand the meaning of the word ‘irony’?

      • drake

        Literary illiteracy?

  • #11 Applies to Creationists.

    #10: A good starting point would be to read the book “How to Watch TV News” by Neil Postman.

    • John


      #11 also applies to atheists.

      Of every atheist I have spoken to, they all think they have EVERYTHING right. They assume they have everything right because “science is always right”.That is false. I am a creationist, yet I love science and listen to every theory given to me. I too have questions about the religion, but that makes me far from knowledge illiterate.

    • HouseOfSiphonophore

      I am offended by your comment. I am a Creationist, and I love science. I don’t even have a problem with athiesim, but it’s people like you with your “look at those primitive Christians, I am so much superior, and much better. I am surprised they have grasped the basics of breathing.”

  • Will Trame

    Definitely interesting. Again, a number of these illiteracies were new to me. I figure one never stops learning.

  • Lego

    They need #21: ‘lol’ illiteracy: the inability to realize when ‘lol’ is no longer funny or appropriate, especially in regards to cats. Because there are so many youtube comments that are little more than “omg lol!”

  • Armin Tamzarian

    Bad list about a retarded subject. You can’t just put some word X before “illiteracy” and just claim it’s people who don’t get X.

    This used to be called “not being good in X”, but nowadays PC forbids people to claim they’re better at something, so we have to invent retarded things like “agricultural illiteracy”.

    Anyhow, you probably have list illiteracy: you just don’t understand lists.

    • Straub

      Um… these are all standard and recognized forms of illiteracy. Spend a minute on wikipedia or google and check if you like. This is definitely not the case of random words being put in front of ‘illiteracy’.

      You definitely suffer from #11.

      • Armin Tamzarian

        Homosexuality was a standard and recognized form of mental illness until the eighties. Still, I dare to argue that even before that time, homosexuality wasn’t a mental illness.

        My point: saying something, doesn’t make it so.

        • Straub

          Your original problem seemed to be that you thought these forms of illiteracy were made-up. They are standard, and yes, that may change in the future, but at the moment they are accepted and considered perfectly true. I can’t work out why that’s so difficult to swallow, except there is the #11 point.

          • Armin Tamzarian

            Well, you can keep calling me dumb in veiled ways, or you could use arguments to disprove my views.

            Anyhow, I’m not saying that people aren’t ignorant about a lot of things. I’m just saying that calling it an illiteracy is a false representation that only serves to mitigate the effect of such title. It makes it seem like an ailment of sorts, that can be cured.

            Seeing that pretty much the entire field of social sciences has been hijacked by leftists, socialists and “progressives”, I suspect this doesn’t have anything to do with a representation of the truth, but with their dogma that everyone is equal and that people who don’t do so well in school or in life are that way through no fault of their own: they are all victims of of society.

          • Anyhow, I’m not saying that people aren’t ignorant about a lot of things. I’m just saying that calling it an illiteracy is a false representation that only serves to mitigate the effect of such title.

            I pretty much agree with this. When I got to entry No. 15 – Emotional Illiteracy, and read the description and my first thought was that that’s got nothing at all to do with “literacy/illiteracy”.. and that “illiteracy” is the wrong word for what’s being described.

            But, pssh, I Googled the term and it appears that it’s in common use. To me though, it’s kinda changing the meaning of the word I know (it as).

          • Flippant is back!

            That’s actually what I like most about this list: it makes you think about a word with a wider meaning. We all think of ‘illiteracy’ as purely a writing-related thing, but actually it doesn’t just mean that. And if a list doesn’t make you think about or learn new things, it ain’t much of a list.

          • Android

            This guy went from sounding like an angry person who disagreed with the premise of the list, to someone who interprets a list of illiteracies (innocent enough) into some sort of political thing… I have no idea what any of the 20 points above have to do with socialists, leftists, or progressives, nor why making such a connection is worth getting so furious about.

            He’s starting to sound paranoid.

          • Dur

            lol starting?

          • Armin Tamzarian


            I’m not mad about this nonsense, I’m annoyed by all people who react with “You is dumb” and not much else. I don’t mind people disagreeing, as long as they give their arguments for that.

            Besides that, the political link that I mentioned was to show that the practice of using “scientific” euphemisms is quite common, usually to not hamper political views, so it’s not a stretch to assume it is happening here too.

          • @Flippant is back! (lol your name :P )— That’s actually what I like most about this list: it makes you think about a word with a wider meaning. We all think of ‘illiteracy’ as purely a writing-related thing, but actually it doesn’t just mean that.

            Yeah, absolutely. Personally, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to classify a fair few of the lists examples under the banner of “illiteracy.” Like I said earlier, until I Googled it, I didn’t believe that feelings and behaviour were a form of “literacy.”

            And, to be honest, I’m still not entirely convinced. The Wikipedia page on “Literacy” is rather contradictory.. it kinda back-peddles on its own definition. I mean like, it starts of with…

            Literacy has been described as the ability to read for knowledge and write coherently and think critically about the written word.

            Yep, I’m on the same page with it there.. that is the meaning as I know it. It goes on to say…

            Literacy can also include the ability to understand all forms of communication, be it body language, pictures, video & sound (reading, speaking, listening and viewing).

            Okayyy.. we’re moving onto shaky ground here. Body language?? It then explains that by saying the word is evolving…

            Evolving definitions of literacy often include all the symbol systems relevant to a particular community.

            Okay, fair enough.. I can understand that. If the word is evolving to encompass more (than just reading writing etc) then so be it.

            But then in the very next breath it goes back on that by saying…

            Literacy represents the lifelong, intellectual process of gaining meaning from print. Key to all literacy is reading development, which involves a progression of skills that begins with the ability to understand spoken words and decode written words, and culminates in the deep understanding of text.

            Well, which is it then? If the word is gonna evolve to include feelings, behaviour, visual stimuli, etc., then how can the key to “all” literacy be reading development? Surely it would be wiser to leave “literacy” alone in its reference to text, and use the word “ignorance” (or some other fitting word)  when referring to something, thats not understood, that isn’t text related.

            I don’t get why the word has to “evolve” to include other things when we already have words that are suitable for such (other things) usage. *scratches head*

          • Incitatus

            Call me a purist, but literacy and iletaracy refer strictly to the ability to read and write, orginally from latin “litteratus” which means marked with letters. the dictionary definition is:

            1a : educated, cultured b : able to read and write

            2a : versed in literature or creative writing : literary b : lucid, polished c : having knowledge or competence

            — lit·er·ate·ly adverb

            — lit·er·ate·ness noun

            all of these other “illiteracies” are actually a lack of knowledge of a specific area not trully illiteracy. You wouldn’t start calling people politically dyslexic, or emotionally colorblind just because a group of people call the than, would you?

        • mom424

          I agree with you too. Silly.

          • Paige

            Yes, I would call people those. Out of being more creative than coherent.
            The politically dyslexic muddle up the issues & political specifics, people who have emotional colour-blindness can mistake certain emotions/emotional reactions for others.

    • Baa

      This guy has critical illiteracy. He has a beef purely because he does not understand the premise of the list (he is ignorant of multiple types of illiteracy), yet despite saying the subject is bad, he also says the content itself is bad. It was a well written list. If you are upset with the subject only, why say the writing is bad? An inability to analyse something critically and to say that if part of it is bad then all other attributes of it are bad, surely, is critical illiteracy. Or just stupidity in black and white thinking. Not sure which.

      • Armin Tamzarian

        The writing is bad, because every entry is the same. The title is repeated somewhat in the first line, and then we get an explanation of what was perfectly clear from the title.

        Also, you are a retard. You say I’m ignorant of multiple types of illiteracy, yet I’ve never implied not knowing about these. Au contraire, I explicitly stated that I am familiar with them, if only through this list, and that I disagree with their classification. Being an idiot is not something that can be fixed, as “illiteracy” implies.

        But nowadays political correctness has permeated the entire society. We can’t call a retard a retard, which pretty much is something he’ll always be and always was.
        No, he has “critical illiteracy”, which is, like, totally curable. It was probably caused by society anyhow, which never gave him a chance and is, like, so racist.

        • M

          Nurse! He got out again!

        • C’mon!

          You show them, Armin! That’s the best way to show you are correct: not to base things on a good argument, but to throw insults around. Always the tactic of someone of sound mind.

          • Chris

            Don’t feed the troll.

          • logopolis

            I think he thinks he’s being consistent with his arguments, actually. Why else would he be so vehement?

          • Armin Tamzarian

            If you read a bit further than “You’re a retard”, you would’ve seen my arguments.

            But hey, don’t let that stop you from drawing conclusions.

          • Angie

            why is everyone attacking him…? Everything he’s been saying seems to be hitting the nail right on the head. This list is stupid. Critically, informatively, and functionally illiterate; apparently.

        • Ken Biddle

          I totally agree with the leftist premise but otherwise, you remind me of the old saying, “sometimes it is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid, than to open it and remove all doubt”… LOL

        • lolpuppies

          Thank you Armin, you are correct in my opinion about political correctness.

          I haven’t been to listverse in months, then I come back and read this?

          This website is so opinionated in their lists it’s…. retarded.

    • Ignorance illiteracy

      Merriam-Webster defines illiteracy as ‘ignorance’. So yes, actually, you can put the word ‘illiteracy’ after something to indicate ignorance and lack of ability in that area. Trouble is, you’ll probably end up with a term that isn’t standard. These all are quite standard (although I was not aware of all of them beforehand).

      • BOONE

        Either you have an old dictionary or you were lazy. does not define illiteracy as ‘ignorance.’ It says.

        1 the quality or state of being illiterate; especially: inability to read or write

        2 a mistake or crudity (as in speaking) typical of one who is illiterate also does not define illiteracy as ‘ignorance.’

    • yankeedoodle

      I totally agree with you. It’s like adding the word “phobia” to common things people are afraid of and making a list out of it.( I believe listverse actually has such a list as well.) It’s just a cheap cop out to have another list.

    • Maggot

      @Arimin: Bad list about a retarded subject. You can’t just put some word X before “illiteracy” and just claim it’s people who don’t get X…but nowadays PC forbids people to claim…

      That’s so PC-illiterate of you to use the term “retarded”.

      • lolpuppies

        Armin is not PC illiterate because he understands and is completely capable of being PC in his comments, but chooses not to.

        • Maggot

          You don’t know that. Nor do I of course, but the only given is that he elaborated on his PC knowledge regarding using “retard” to describe an actual retarded person, but not necessarily about the insensitivity of using it as a generic pejorative for other things. You can slap me with number 11 now. Lol.

  • katefan

    Yes! Another Kate mulcahy list! Great job again here on a subject i must admit I was very ignorant!

  • Edward

    I know it’s the lighting but the white hand in #7 looks unhealthily pale to me…

  • Pessimist

    I think the author massively understates how detrimental these can be. I would wager that most of the problems with society are due to people having too much of any one of these.

  • genetics is bad

    I know they’re supposed to be illustrative, but the examples are hilarious!

  • Lol I’m happy another Kate list is up.. I grinned as soon as I saw it. Read through the intro.. great topic.. and settled in for an interesting read. Hmmm.. but I didn’t make it past the first entry (No. 20), the first sentence therof, without stumbling across a bit of a problem. 8O

    20 – Agricultural Illiteracy
    This is the ability to understand information regarding agriculture.

    Lol no, Kate.. agricultural illiteracy is the inability to understand information regarding agriculture. ;)

    Jamie, who is your proofreader? They’re lazy. Submit the lists to me for a final edit before putting them in the publish queue You know where to find me.. just do it! :D

    • first sentence thereof,* rather. :\

      Lol scrap me being proofreader, Jamie. Just give me the powers to edit my own posts. I really, REALLY need it!

    • Sad Ben

      That said, there don’t seem to be any other typos. 1 per list is better than average (sadly).

      • Lol I found three others, Ben. Try harder. ;)

        But, even with four total, your last sentence still stands (sadly).

  • yankeedoodle

    Restaurant illiteracy- The inability to find a good restaurant
    Bicycle illiteracy- The inability to balance on two wheelers
    Bathroom illiteracy- The inability to use toilet paper.
    And the list goes on and on and on………

  • Paige

    Great list. Glad I don’t have Meta-illiteracy (that being the inability to comprehend the concept and nuances of illiteracy). And, yes, I’m aware that was crappy.

    Anyway, keep writing.

  • Hmmm.. I’m not so sure about this part in entry No. 5:

    Sadly, 75% of adults are scientifically illiterate. These people make statements like “people who drive expensive cars live longer, so if I buy a nice car I’ll live longer too,” even though the car does not cause a long life span…

    Where did that stat come from? That’s damn high. That’s pretty much saying 75% of adults are fookwits that are dumb as hell.

    I don’t know the adult population percentages of undeveloped Third World countries (where perhaps the adults wouldn’t know any better) but, even still, 75% of all adults being (basically) morons (who would come out with the car statement example) seems really high. 8O

    • 75%

      75% sounds like an underestimate to me. I work as a biochemist, and have to deal with CEOs from all sorts of companies on a weekly basis as part of my job. Communicating simple ideas is very difficult when they already have the weird ideas that most people seem to. And these are highly educated professionals, not just your average person. Things like “organic = better” and being shocked to learn that everyone has mutant DNA in them.

      40% of American adults are unaware that the sun is a star. That, to me, is a pretty high level of scientific illiteracy. But lower levels even are quite normal. Believing in health food fads (acai berry, superfoods, all that) is standard, although unscientific.

      Maybe it should have read “75% of adults have at least a low level of scientific illiteracy”. But I still think that 75% is low, even for white-collar workers. It’d be a pretty safe bet to say that it’s higher among people with no tertiary education.

    • 75%

      75% sounds like an underestimate to me. I work as a biochemist, and have to deal with CEOs from all sorts of companies on a weekly basis as part of my job. Communicating simple ideas is very difficult when they already have the weird ideas that most people seem to. And these are highly educated professionals, not just your average person. Things like “organic = healthier” and being shocked to learn that everyone has mutant DNA in them.

      40% of American adults are unaware that the sun is a star. That, to me, is a pretty high level of scientific illiteracy. But lower levels even are quite normal. Believing in health food fads (acai berry, superfoods, all that) is standard, although unscientific.

      Maybe it should have read “75% of adults have at least a low level of scientific illiteracy”. But I still think that 75% is low, even for white-collar workers. It’d be a pretty safe bet to say that it’s higher among people with no tertiary education.

      I wouldn’t interpret being scientifically illiterate as ‘moronic’, because the majority of people cope just fine. It only really shows when something comes up on the news that people get worked up about it, despite completely misunderstanding the issue.

    • Arsnl

      Some items seemed linked. That 75% seems a statistical illiteracy. And technology and computer illiteracy. How is the latter not included in the former?

      • Phobos

        it kind of says it’s included. but it’s fair to state, since like with phobias, a fear of fish is a specific type of fear of animals, but they are still separate things.

    • 75

      75% sounds like an underestimate to me. I work as a biochemist, and have to deal with CEOs from all sorts of companies on a weekly basis as part of my job. Communicating simple ideas is very difficult when they already have the weird ideas that most people seem to. And these are highly educated professionals, not just your average person. Things like “organic = healthier” and being shocked to learn that everyone has mutant DNA in them.

      40% of American adults are unaware that the sun is a star. That, to me, is a pretty high level of scientific illiteracy. But lower levels even are quite normal. Believing in health food fads (acai berry, superfoods, all that) is standard, although unscientific.

      Maybe it should have read “75% of adults have at least a low level of scientific illiteracy”. But I still think that 75% is low, even for white-collar workers. It’d be a pretty safe bet to say that it’s higher among people with no tertiary education.

      I wouldn’t interpret being scientifically illiterate as ‘moronic’, because the majority of people cope just fine. It only really shows when something comes up on the news that people get worked up about it, despite completely misunderstanding the issue. Although few adults would make the ‘car’ statement, it is quite normal to hear the other two.

      • 75

        Ahh sorry my computer had a seizure or something just then. If only I could delete these extras…

        • BOONE

          Looks like computer illiteracy or perhaps patience illiteracy.

      • Pengobatan

        I have no figures, but it is known that ltriielacy levels among girls in Kenya was slightly higher than that of boys. I say was’ because since free primary school education was implemented in 2004, many more girls have started to go to school. Infact, so many new children were enrolled that year the teachers were overwhelmed. Some may since have dropped out for various reasons, and they may never go back so they will basically be illiterate adults. Most illiterate adults in Kenya mostly live outside urban areas, especially in areas where the infrastructure is poor and they have to walk many miles to school. But in most cases, girls are forced to drop out of school due to early marriages. When they have children it becomes very difficult to go back to school. What should be done? Deal with marriage of very young girls.

  • Smite All The Numbers!

    I think I have numerical illiteracy….. I just wish maths would go burn in the fiery pits of hell, oh how I hate it!

  • oneday imightgetalifeandgetaproperusername

    punishment illiteracy (see above)

  • vanowensbody

    How about illiteracy illiteracy? The inability to realize you are illiterate.

    Another nice list Kate.

  • Kim Booth

    I love the illustration for No 5 – Scientific Illiteracy. That man’s scientific illiteracy, with no small help from the Church, delayed the development of science in Europe by two millenia.

  • oak

    number 1 reminds me of that daylight savings time quote
    “only a white man would believe that you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket and sew it to the bottom of a blanket and have a longer blanket.”

    • BOONE

      Of course by quoting this remark you are showing racial illiteracy as described in #7.

  • mom424

    I’m with Armin Tamzarian on this one. It’s well enough executed but the topic is silly. It’s almost a way of legitimizing general stupidity or bad behavior. For instance I’m crappy with money; always on the verge of flat broke; get out of my overdraft once a year if I’m lucky. I am not financially illiterate – I know how to budget, I know that the my o/d is a huge rip-off and that I should never use it. It’s just that the impulsiveness of my nature trumps my finances. It’s a weakness – not an illiteracy. In the same vein, many of these are either ignorance; never been taught, or stupidity; never would learn. Lets not make any more excuses.

    PS: I don’t know where you live, or where the stats were spawned, but where I live there is no way that 75% of adults are scientifically illiterate. We’re taught the scientific method, evolution, physics, chemistry in school. No one under the age of 60 who made it through high school is ignorant of these things. At least in Ontario and Quebec. (I have personal knowledge about Ont/Que – I personally would assume it’s the same throughout Canada)

    • Maybe

      I see what you’re saying, that by putting labels on things people are able to use them as excuses. But it also helps them be recognized and addressed. A large number of quite serious mental disorders were not named until relatively recently, and thus could be treated. In medicine and science, naming is the beginning of wisdom. It is difficult to study something or fix it if you can’t name it or are largely unaware that it exists.

      People will always use things as excuses. I think the existence of the term ‘functional illiteracy’ just gives people a new excuse to replace whatever ones they were using before. Just like writing illiteracy, these are all changable through better education. And just like how governments are able to address writing literacy, maybe one day they’ll also address critical literacy and other ones to help people.

      I think the 75% should have been modified with “mild”, since that would actually be about right. Just look at organic food sales.

      • mom424

        haha. Agreed on the organic. Buy local; independent farmers use the least amount of fertilizer and insecticides – because it’s prudent to do so. Also as a bonus it’ll be actually fresh; not just made to look it.

        • mordechaimordechai

          “independent farmers use the least amount of fertilizer and insecticides ”

          That depends on where you live, i guess. If your local farmer uses a lot of chemicals then …

          • mom424

            It is never prudent to use too many chemicals – it costs money you know. Small independent farmersare always interested in return on investment as well as conserving their land. Neither of these are accomplished by over use of chemicals…..btw natural poison is just as poisonous as the man-made kind. I don’t care so much its origins as its (over)use.

    • MT

      I’m with the both of you. Enough said. Badly thought out list.

  • posey

    I’m not a farmer but ‘90% of farmland was lost due to drought’ seems like pretty srs bsns to me.

  • oouchan

    Well…this was not what I was expecting when I read the title of the list. I can understand why the term \”illiteracy\” was used….but I think it\’s too broad and used simply to fill in space. I\’m not a fan of the list, yet the topic was interesting. The execution just left me hanging.

    Mediocre list.

    • Maggot

      too broad and used simply to fill in space

      It’s definitely not one of Kate’s finest. She’s shown herself to be capable of way better.

  • Zair

    Excellent list Kate I can name several people who can fall under some of these categories :)

  • The thing I deal with most is health illiteracy, and it really causes so many problems for the health sector… But the illiteracy that I wish most would disappear is critical illiteracy.

  • and I thought I was pretty smart

  • To be a truly rounded-up person we should have at least a moderate “intelligence” of the said types of illiteracy?

  • Jaina64

    Interesting list.

    Number 15 , Emotional Illiteracy, is actually is part of the Autism Spectrum. My daughter is autistic and I have to handle her “emotional illiteracy” daily.

    • Vincent

      I’m an Aspie, emotional cues and especially empathy is a big issue (ask my wife). My son, a more “pronounced” Aspie is off the charts regarding empathy, cues, social behavior. It even frustrates me trying to argue a point with him.

    • Beautiful Heart

      Have you considered an abortion?

  • Blackman Allah

    stupid list…one of the worst ever

    • Ambrosia

      Couldn’t agree more

  • Numerical illiterate

    Great list! I find the topic very interesting and well-conveyed. Well done!

  • BryanJ

    Interesting idea for a list. I got a bit confused reading the first sentence in #20.

  • MT

    Most of these “illiteracies” are not illiteracies at all. Ignorance and an unwillingness to learn about the world around them because of numerous social reasons cause these “illiteracies” of people.

    • m-w

      illiteracy and ignorance are synonymous according to the dictionary.

      • MT

        The two words imply two different meanings depending on how and where the word is used in a context.

  • Gower59

    Computer game illiteracy is common. I remember watching my sister on Mario Kart for the SNES. Turning the pad left and right as well pressing the directional buttons, despite the fact I had explained this made no difference in-game. She insisted it made her steer better.

    Or is that just stupidity?

  • Planet Earth

    I think Critical Illiteracy should have been higher on this list .

    When money clouds your mind and you can’t see the big picture .Instead of solving critical problems like Drinking water for every one on this planet . We are stuck in a never ending cycle of corrupt Banks & governments and business elite .

    A BILLION people on Planet Earth right NOW don’t have access to clean drinking water !

    • Critical thinker

      It was in alphabetical order…

      • BOONE

        Clearly, the user ‘Planet Earth’ suffers from either critical illiteracy, visual illiteracy or both.

        • Ambrosia

          Lol :-)

  • sami

    I’m glad I’m not illiterate in any of these aspects! A bio/chem double major in a liberal arts college has definitely helped me relieve basic illiteracy in these categories :) Some of these makes me wonder if it’s not quite illiteracy, but rather a lack in mental capability spurred on by some sort of developmental problem.

    • BOONE

      You may suffer from modesty illiteracy.

  • mordechaimordechai

    That must be some sort of new sport or a fad!

    You take a noun play with its meaning a bit and then present it as if it was something new.

    No, thanks. What Kate is describing is called deficiency or plain stupidity, if you like.

    A language is used to share idea from one another and has to be known by both the writer and the reader. You can’t arbitrarely make things up just because.

    Besides someone who “fails to understand” the importance of a matter might simply be someone who has a different opinion then yours; and passing the thought that who thinks differently does so for some kind of illness is called FASCISM

  • Maggot

    Hmm. The individual items are somewhat brief, but overall it’s kind of an overly long and drawn out list that can basically be summarized with one simple sentence:

    “A lot of people are dumbasses.”

  • Ballz

    Do people that say, “…thus up-to-date science is never wrong,” suffer from scientific illiteracy? The most current, most commonly accepted scientific theory or idea could still be wrong and humans just not know it yet. Does this statement smell like (The) Ether?

  • ConstableDubs

    Excuse me while I go die of boredom.

    • ParusMajor

      You are not allowed to do that, legally. You must suffer with the rest of us. Suffer all through the boredom. You cannot die. Not unless all of us can die, too.

  • “A British person thinking that “porky-pies” require pastry”

    Sorry, what now?

    A pork pie is a savoury pie, (pork encased in pastry) and typically but not exclusively eaten with HP sauce.

    Porky pies is slang for ‘lies’ ie: he told a right pork pie to me the other night, it isn’t used very often.

    A slight mixing of metaphors here or what!

  • GrammerNazi

    #6. The middle example still looks better than some text messages I have received.

  • Another list someone yanked outofa book. Sheesh! Are there no STANDARDS anymore, people???

    • ParusMajor

      I saw a standard the other day in the woods… and I SHOT THE F*ING S*IT out of it… with me shotgun… you know…

    • my poor brain

      The more of this list I read, the more frustrated I became. It feels so broad, pointless and inconsequential. Couldn’t you avoid listing 20 mundane, random examples (most of which are explained in their titles) simply by stating SOME PEOPLE HAVE LITTLE OR NO KNOWLEDGE OF CERTAIN SUBJECTS. There’s no significance or worth of the chosen ‘illiteracies’ within the context of one list. Shouldn’t you have included Political Illiteracy, Social Illiteracy, Musical Illiteracy???… I’m brainstorming here….Navigational Illiteracy??? WHO CARES!! Its’ all saying the same thing (once again) SOME PEOPLE HAVE LITTLE OR NO KNOWLEDGE OF CERTAIN SUBJECTS. Furthermore these little statistics scattered among the descriptions seem ridiculous. For example, “sadly, over 60% of adults have some degree of information illiteracy.” So of this 60% some might be 3% informationally (is that a word?) illiterate, some might be 86%. How are you supposed to quantify SOME OF OVER 60%??? Furthemore, by that logic at least 30% are completely information(ally??) literate. They are actively aware of the limit of their knowledge on any given subject? This is so subjective and undefined. Who’s to say what they believe they ‘know’ is correct??? Mr. Frater, please stop posting lists without substance, it just dilutes the credibilty of older interesting lists on the site. Rant over.

  • lolpuppies

    “Therefore science is never wrong”

    I love science, but… Does that mean sickness is still passed on through smells? I think I’m late for my bloodletting appointment…

    • fendabenda

      But of course, my dear! If something like food smells bad, it most likely contains bacteria that may make you ill. Unless it’s cheese, in which case you can sell it to the French who like old and moldy cheese. Also, if you’re walking down the street and it smells fishy… you’re either at the fish market or at the red light zone.

  • Dylan

    List illiteracy: the inability to create an interesting list; a common problem with Listverse writers.

  • tealc

    not a bad list, but i guess you can pair anything with the word illiteracy. for example, ninja illiteracy: people who have no concept of ninjas, they often do not realise ninjas are silent deadly assasins and this is a leading cause of people getting killed by accidentally proviking a ninja. etc etc

  • some guy

    “Illiteracy” is certainly not the proper term. Good list, but I find it hard to believe that several of these even exist, and the examples are ludicrous.

  • shilla

    Um, this entire list was an exercise in testing critical/statistical illiteracy. (e.g. “over 60% of adults have some degree of information illiteracy,” etc.)

  • Bunrakku

    I don’t understand this entry at all.

  • Ashley

    Thia list kind of just sounds like an excuse to brag. I’m sure everyone has a lack of knowlege in some area. Nobody knows everything about everything. But to look down on these people, or to imply that they are “illiterate” in that area is pretty extreme.

    Stupid list.

  • D

    #18 and #5 apply to creationists, too.

  • Vicki Summer

    Religious literacy has become one of major importance and too many people are simply uninformed about the basics of world religions. This is especially important in our time of religious sensitivities permeating the political realm.

  • SH

    A lot of comments are saying “Hey! I know somebody like that!”. They are all suffering from number 4. Just taking the stats from 6 of the 20 entries on this list (the % of people affected weren’t included in all entries), 97,84% of all adults suffer from at least one of these. Including me.

    So there’s that.

  • Jadon

    # 15 can be summed up pretty easily. Men

    • Bloody Mary

      Good thing that you are a female and you mentioned men. Or else someone might have called you a sexist.

  • Zach

    “Literacy” sure has changed in meaning.

  • denver

    if i read that 90% of all farmland was lost due to drought I’d be pretty f***ing conserned

  • Sardondi

    Oh, bullshit. “Twenty Types of Illiteracy” ? Why not say fifty? Or a thousand?

    What you’re calling “illiteracy” is just a typical postmodern recasting of something we’ve known for millenia, just to make it sound new, more dramatic or serious. It’s nothing more than good, o;d-fashioned ignorance, whether willful or not, of a subject. “Types of Illiteracy” my ass.

    • Adrian

      So if it was called “20 types of ignorance” would you be happier?

      ‘Literacy’, in the technical sense, is synonymous with ‘ignorance’. These are actual terms that are used, and yes, they are basically types of ‘ignorance’ or even ‘stupidity’.

      Never seen someone get so upset over synonyms before.

  • allIhearis

    Okay, so pretty much anyone who is mentally handicapped or just plain stupid..? There is a lack of common sense in every one of these, nothing more.

  • Jack

    i know when i’m proven wrong but i still decide to go down swinging

  • JonesRanger

    A few of these were good but I have to say that overall I feel that most of these are more of the authors opinion and made up rather then real conditions. the author is saying that there are many different ways to be stupid. Is there really a large number of people saying things like “all people who were democratic in the nineteenth century are now dead, so democracy kills people!”

    • Democrat

      Spend a few minutes on wiki or google and you’ll find these have all been standard for years. They’re just technical terms few people are aware of, so they’re not a part of normal vocabulary. And that example you quoted was just that: an example. It didn’t say anywhere that large numbers of people say that.

  • trfan01

    #18 applies to me for sure, as I have low reading comprehension. Every time I was tested in grade school, I had 59% reading comprehension compared to all other test scores in the high 80s and 90s.

    I’m not sure if it was listed on here, but I also have great difficulty judging quantity (never pick me to guess rightly how many beans are in a jar). I remember once when I went to a small chapel for mass with my dad, I told my mom there were 32 people there. There were probably 3-4 times that.

  • ladytech52

    Why is there no religion illiteracy listed? Maybe because it is so common…

  • Kyle

    I started trying to research some of the examples on this list and always found myself short of finding anything resembling things you’re describing. I understand that a lot of these are established forms of literacy. For instance Racial Literacy and Mental Health Literacy, but I couldn’t find anything specific about the opposite/illiterate or under-developed side of these?

    My question I guess is where are you finding all the ‘facts’ and ‘information’ on these topics when all of these ideas come up dry on the internet. Do you speculate? Else I suggest hyperlinking sections of your lists, which is general standard on many other sites providing a researched articles. Interesting topic though!

    • Google Dude

      A quick google search was all I needed…

  • BB

    One form of scientific illiteracy: making a statement that “population control is unnecessary”. This is a perfect example of a person with a political agenda duping people with media illiteracy and…oh, why go on? The author needs to obtain more English grammar literacy. sigh…

    • Above your head

      You took your quote out of context by removing the preceding and supporting statement. Just because population control isn’t necessary now doesn’t mean that in the future it might not be. It’s pretty clear that the Earth can’t support infinitely many humans, so we’re going to have to stabilise off our population at some point. To those of us with a decent science education, this statement is not a political agenda but a pretty trivial fact.

      The examples were quite obviously exaggerated for illustrative purposes. But perhaps that went over your head. Read the example in #18 for a particularly obvious one.

      I fail to see how a factually based list which advocates critical thinking and higher awareness so as not to be mislead by skewed information is some sort of political/media brainwashing device. And the grammar is fine.

  • Ambrosia

    This list makes for an awesome bedtime story, kids were asleep soon as i read ‘agricultural illiteracy’

    • Etrica

      What’s wrong with you?

  • k

    worst list i’ve ever read. laughed at #20 and stopped reading after #19. reading it felt like an insult to my intelligence.

    • Columbo

      Aww… that’s cute. Just keep thinking that.

  • ken

    This list is a nice one bt technology illiteracy should be top on the list cos we are in the age of advancing technology

  • don

    whoo man its cool

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  • Mabel

    That’s what I was thinking. Some of them sound like people just being ignorant or jerks. So now they have an excuse to behave that way, rather than learning or curbing their behavior?

  • Reblogged this on Lucy takes a Bite.

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  • Mel

    Your facts on health literacy are inaccurate — 10% of people (at least in the US) are health *literate*. That leaves 90% of people struggling to understand basic health information.


    • Too American

      Since when does “developed countries” mean “the US”?

      As it says above, there are varying degrees of literacy, so the absolute figure is very much in flux. 10% sounds like people who are completely illiterate, whereas 90% might mean a high level of literacy. Again, that’s just for one country, and therefore has no bearing on the statistic used in the list.

  • lindsey

    90% of Americans have race illiteracy! Plus I think I might have typing illiteracy because I am struggling with touch typing for a while now and despite my constant practice, It does not seem that I am heading or making any progress in terms of typing speed but I have no problem using software like Microsoft Excel, Access, PowerPoint and any other software. I really need some help when it comes to touch typing and if I make it past 50wpm comfortably, then that will be a break through in my career.??!