Truth has emerged as one of the biggest sources of inspiration in the “Inspire InFocus” study. An analysis that looks at people’s inspiration preferences through the lens of truth and motivation reveals a polarization of mindsets. People who value truth highly experience more inspiration and are more apt to engage in positive, self-transformational outcomes. Those who value truth less, experience inspiration the least and report lower levels of positivity and confidence. A rising number of solutions that enable people to surface fact from the ruins of disinformation relieves a massive burden for those who value truth but struggle to find it.

Truth be Told 

A walloping 85% of global respondents say they feel motivated to get to the real truth about things in the world today. This is equally true across all generations, including younger cohorts who have largely come of age in a post-truth world. What’s more, almost half (48%) of global respondents tell us they are not likely to be inspired by untruths. In this instance, younger generations are more willing to turn a blind eye to truth as a source of inspiration; still, 40% of those aged 18-34 tell us that they are likely to reject falsehoods as a source of inspiration.   

When we look at the sources of inspiration, people tell us that stories of honesty and integrity are most inspiring, while those of trickery are the least. Justice also ranks high (31%). Perhaps in response to the social injustice and mounting inequality exposed by the pandemic, this declared preference could also be interpreted as a growing desire for people to be held accountable - that a consensus for what is right and true be upheld.

I am inspired by people who fight for equality and justice.

Brazil respondent, female, gen X, Indulger segment

News outlets rank fifth globally among sources of online inspiration, with Brazil ranking them even higher (fourth) and China putting them first. This is despite some news sources being singled out as the root cause of fake news. In Brazil, news journalist Nathalia Arcuri and TV host and media tycoon Silvio Santos are some of the most inspiring celebrity figures identified. In contrast, from our list of possible inspiring people, political figures rank only above avatars and right below mythical/fictional characters. In the era of leaders such as Trump, Johnson, Bolsonaro and Xi Jinping, perhaps lack of truthfulness places them near the bottom.

TREND Truth Motivation 01 Inspiration Online 2x
When I am inspired, it is usually by a story I hear through a newsfeed of someone committing a random act of kindness.

US respondent, female, millennial, Nurturer segment

Truth Mindsets

To better understand this value judgment on truth, we took a deep dive into people’s motivation, and compared it with their views on inspiration. The analysis has produced four mindsets that show people’s relative value assessment of truth on a scale from Hard Truths (who values this the most) to Truthless (who values this the least). We examined how this value system impacts inspiration preferences.

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Truth Segments

The Hard Truths make up 39% of the global population, and this figure is skewed lower than Selective Truths only due to China’s small representation of 12%. The other three markets show a larger representation of this group, with 55% of the total in Brazil. They are more likely to be inspired to actualize the top 10 global outcomes than any other truth mindset, such as make a career change, become vocal about a social issue, and enroll on a course.    

The Selective Truths make up nearly half (47%) of the global population. In this case, China makes up the largest group, with a remarkable 77% falling into its camp. Stories of honesty and integrity feature in the top five sources of inspiration for the Selective Truths and Hard Truths - charting second for the Hard Truths - but drop out for the other two mindsets that value truth less.     

The two groups that are not motivated to get to the truth are the Fake Truths, who make up 9% of the global population, and the Truthless, who do not factor truth into their inspiration equation either - they make up merely 5% of the population.   

What we see here is that three out of the four groups value inspiration to one degree or another, whether it’s a motivating factor (Hard Truths, Selective Truths) or a deciding factor when they reflect on their inspiration preferences (Fake Truths). Together these three groups comprise 95% of the global population.

Why Truth Still Matters

What does this tell us? Firstly, most people value truth to some extent. This is corroborated by other research including “What the Future: Truth,” an October 2020 report by IPSOS that finds Americans are willing to call out misinformation and “fight for the truth.” Northwestern University has shown in the same market that 82% of people are concerned about what is real or fake on the internet. 

For me it’s important to be honest and pay attention to integrity.

Chinese respondent, female, millennial, Nurturer segment

One of the reasons truth is in question is the rise of mis- and disinformation, with the internet providing fertile ground. Populist politicians are known to systematically plant rumors in an effort to stir up support. Former US President Donald Trump made more than 16,000 false or misleading claims in his first three years in office, according to the Washington Post’s fact-checking operation. As Nicholas Carlson, global editor-in-chief at Insider, explains, “the truth is not dead but it’s been beaten to a pulp by politicians, media personalities and grifters - all for mere power and profit.” It’s no surprise that wild conspiracies abound, from a rigged US election to anti-vax campaigns and 5G’s responsibility for COVID.

There is no truth in media anymore, you can’t trust anything.

US respondent, male, Boomer+, Nurturer segment

Attention to Truth 

Considering the post-truth context of this survey, it is all the more interesting that our respondents place so much value on truth. Social psychologist Sander van der Linden at the University of Cambridge explains that most people do not easily fall for untruths, but that when misinformation offers simple, casual explanations for otherwise random events, “it helps restore a sense of agency and control for many people.” Reporting on a 2021 study in Nature, Scientific American relays: “When thinking about the rise of misinformation online, the issue is not so much a shift in people’s attitudes about truth, but rather a more subtle shift in attention to truth. There’s a big disconnect between what people believe and what they share.”

The same study found that while people are adept at identifying whether social media stories are inaccurate, if those stories are in line with their personal opinions they will share them anyway. This shows that the compulsion to share opinion and win likes is stronger than the motivation to uphold fact. We see this in our largest group, the Selective Truths (47%), who agree that truth is important but are inspired by other things regardless.

Truth and Wellbeing

On the other hand, the Fake Truths tell us that something must be true in order for them to be inspired by it. They have a stronger tendency to be pessimistic, insecure and to follow others. They are also disproportionately concerned with chronic health conditions, and mental health ranks third in terms of problems they feel society should address. Considering the proven link between inspiration and wellbeing, it is no surprise that this negative, vulnerable group is also deprived of inspiration - nearly a quarter report no recent outcomes of inspiration. Perhaps the obstacle in their way is their need for things to be true in order to be inspired. They are simultaneously unmotivated to get the truth, which is increasingly difficult to surface to the top on its own accord.   

I am inspired by anyone committed to the truth of the facts, and not for their own or ideological interests.

Brazil respondent, male, Boomer+, Nurturer segment

Empowering Truth

The good news is many organizations and tech solutions are cropping up to make this burden on people easier. We are seeing the emergence of “truth tools” like Full Fact and NewsGuard, and campaigns such as Microsoft’s Defending Democracy Program, which aim to combat disinformation. Social media giants like Facebook and Twitter are cracking down on misinformation and fake news. It is a positive shift, since many believe that the threats we now collectively face can’t be tackled unless we are honest. If we lie about vaccinations we infect our fellow man. If we lie about carbon emissions the planet is doomed. As Extinction Rebellion activist Will Skeaping points out to us, “telling the truth to ourselves and to our audiences is the absolute number one priority of what we should be doing. I think that the bravery in doing that will elevate anyone who does it.”

I am inspired by people who speak truth to power.

US respondent, female, gen X, Creator segment

Key Takeaways

  • Truth as a source of inspiration has surfaced as one of the biggest trends from wave one of the “Inspire Infocus” study. 
  • People who value truth more, experience more inspiration and are more likely to engage in positive, self-transformational outcomes, while those who consider it less important, are those who experience inspiration the least and report lower levels of positivity and confidence. 
  • Truth emerges as an enabling factor for wellbeing, which innovative brands can help foster by joining the efforts to help surface fact from fiction.

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