Tuesday, March 1, 2022

The Nudge: Ethically Dubious and Ineffective


Nudge Behavioral Science infantilism manipulation social engineering Tavistock Institute

More and more people in the US will be wising up to their government’s use of behavioural science – or ‘nudging’ – as a means of increasing compliance with Covid-19 restrictions. These psychological techniques exploit the fact that human beings are almost always on ‘automatic pilot,’ habitually making moment-by-moment decisions without rational thought or conscious reflection. 

The use of behavioural science in this way represents a radical departure from the traditional methods – legislation, information provision, rational argument – used by governments to influence the behaviour of their citizens. But why expend all that time and energy when, by contrast, many of the ‘nudges’ delivered are – to various degrees – acting upon the public automatically, below the level of conscious thought and reason? 

By going with the grain of how we think and act, the state-employed ‘nudgers’ can covertly shape our behaviour in a direction deemed desirable by the regime of the day – an appealing prospect for any government. The ubiquitous deployment of these behavioural strategies – which frequently rely on inflating emotional distress to change behaviour – raises profound moral questions.

The UK has been an innovator in these methods, but they are now raising widespread disquiet here. In fact serious concerns about our Government’s use of behavioural science were previously raised in relation to other spheres of government activity. In 2019, a Parliamentary report found that the distress evoked in people targeted by behavioural insights in relation to tax collection may, in some instances, have led to victims taking their own lives. 

In the Covid-19 era, it appears the behavioural scientists have been given free reign.  (more...)

The Nudge: Ethically Dubious and Ineffective

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