Behavioural Insights Team

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Group.png Behavioural Insights Team  
(Social engineeringWebsiteRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
AbbreviationBIT
Formation2010
HeadquartersLondon, UK
Staff100 – 500
Interestslibertarian paternalism, authoritarianism, psychology, propaganda, psy-ops, public-private partnerships
Membership• David Halpern
• Rob Taylor
• Daniel Goldstein
• Richard Thaler
• Nick Chater
• Peter John
• Peter Tufano
• Simon Burgess
• Theresa Marteau
• Gus O’Donnell
UK government propaganda and manipulation outfit

The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), known unofficially as the "Nudge Unit", is a British organisation that generates and applies behavioural insights to "dream up psychological tricks to alter our behaviour" in partnership with the government, local authorities, non-profits, and businesses.

Since 2013 it is nominally independent, as Behavioural Insights Limited (BIT), thereby increasing plausible deniability.

History

BIT was set up in 2010 as a department of the UK government a probationary fashion.[1] In April 2013 it was announced that it would be partially privatised as a joint venture.[2]

And on 5 February 2014 its ownership was split equally between the government, the charity Nesta, and the team's senior employees,[3] with Nesta providing £1.9 million in financing and services.[4].

FT reported that it was "the first time the government has privatised civil servants responsible for policy decisions". UK government departments that had previously received policy advice in-house now pay lucrative consultancy fees the service, and at the same time, the government creates "plausible deniability" for potentially unethical actions, which are now done by a nominally "private" company.

BIT's objects are stated in its articles as: "(i) promote the public good, and (ii) generate the maximum achievable profits available for distribution."[5]

Covid-19

There have been mention of the Behavioral Science Team advising the Cabinet Office in regards to the Covid-19 panic, in addition to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies. Eyal Winter, an Israeli economist at Lancaster University and professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem’s centre for the study of rationality, have been advising both the British and Israeli Cabinet since April 2020[6]. Another prominent adviser to the Cabinet Office is Daniel Kahneman, an Israeli-American economist and Nobel laureate.

A list of members of a Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours (SPI-B) was released by the Uk government on May 4, 2020. [7]

Full article: Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours/Members

Karol Sikora, a possible member of BETSAGE, described the behavioral team:

“Very powerful psy-ops came into play. The familiar slogan “stay home, protect the NHS, save lives” is familiar now to all of us. And that was the creation of the behavioral insights team in Number 10 Downing Street. Remarkable psychology behind that. I think the team were even very surprised by how well we behaved.”
Karol Sikora (23 April 2020)  [8]

Nudging sick people in work

In 2015, the 'Nudge Unit' team collaborated with the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Health to finding ways of keeping or pushing sick and disabled people into work. This included "GPs prescribing a work coach, and a health and work passport to collate employment and health information. These emerged from research with people on ESA, and are now being tested with local teams of Jobcentres, GPs and employers.” This was criticized as a breach the private and confidential patient-doctor relationship[9], letting outsiders from the Department of Work and Pensions and non-medically qualified contractors edit medical records to “help” people into work.

Steve Moore, Business Development Director from esg, which is “a leading welfare to work and vocational skills group", sponsored the research into nudging people back to work.

People

Dr. David Halpern is co-author of the 96-page report MINDSPACE: Influencing behaviour through public policy[10], published by the Cabinet Office and the Institute for Government. ‘Nudging’ is described in that key document as ‘cues [that] act on people without their conscious knowledge: indeed, people actively resist the suggestion that their actions are being influenced.’

Daniel Goldstein is Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research[11] and describes himself as ‘an American cognitive psychologist known for the specification and testing of heuristics and models of bounded rationality in the field of judgment and decision making.’

Richard Thaler[12] is Professor of Behavioural Science and Economics at the Chicago Booth School of Business, and winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Economics He is the co-author of Nudge: Improving Decisions on Health, Wealth, and Happiness, published by Yale University Press in 2008.

Nick Chater[13] is Professor of Behavioural Science at Warwick Business School.

Peter John[14] is Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at University College London.

Peter Tufano[15] is Dean of Oxford University’s Said Business School, which CPExposed[16] revealed as having links to leadership training ‘charity’ Common Purpose, and which in turn had links with a Paris business school specialising in, amongst other things, neurolinguistic (NLP) training for business leaders.

Simon Burgess is Professor of Economics at the University of Bristol.

Theresa Marteau is ‘Director of the Behaviour and Health Research Unit in the University of Cambridge Department of Public Health and Primary Care, and Fellow and Director of Studies in Psychological and Behavioural Sciences at Christ's College, Cambridge.’[17]


International adoption

Full article: Social_control#Nudge_Theory

United States

BIT has expanded to the United States setting up an office in New York. The North American operation is working with cities and their agencies, as well as other partners, across the United States and Canada, running over 25 randomized controlled trials in the first year of operation.

The model has been followed in the United States. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has a "Social and Behavioral Sciences Initiative", whose goal is "to translate academic research findings into improvements in federal program performance and efficiency using rigorous evaluation methods". On 15 September 2015 President Obama issued an Executive Order which formally established the Social and Behavioral Sciences Team and directed government agencies to use insights from the social and behavioral sciences to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their work.

Germany

In Germany the unemployed are nudged through a system of aversive conditioning called Hartz IV and forced to work for low or no wage to "be made fit for reintroduction" to labor market. Amazon profits from this forced labor, rotating no-wage-employees in collaboration with the Bundesanstalt für Arbeit.[citation needed]

France

France has a smiliar outfit, which collaborates with the British one.

Oceania and Southeast Asia

BIT Australia worked with the New South Wales government, whose Department of Premier and Cabinet boasts a Behavioral Insights unit. In Singapore, BIT works with Singaporean government agencies, including the Ministry of Manpower, Public Services Division of the Prime Minister’s Office, and Ministry of Home Affairs.



References

  1. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9853384/Inside-the-Coalitions-controversial-Nudge-Unit.html
  2. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-launches-competition-to-find-a-commercial-partner-for-the-behavioural-insights-team
  3. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-26030205
  4. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/571eef16-8d99-11e3-9dbb-00144feab7de.html
  5. Articles, https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/08567792/filing-history
  6. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/27/coronavirus-easing-uk-lockdown-require-tough-enforcement-rules
  7. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/scientific-advisory-group-for-emergencies-sage-coronavirus-covid-19-response-membership/list-of-participants-of-sage-and-related-sub-groups
  8. https://www.anti-empire.com/intellectual-massacre-covid-lockdown-loonies-praise-successful-psy-ops-during-deeply-humiliating-cambridge-union-debate/
  9. https://welfareweekly.com/revealed-tories-social-experiments-to-nudge-sick-and-disabled-people-into-work/
  10. https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/MINDSPACE.pdf
  11. http://www.dangoldstein.com/cv.html
  12. https://web.archive.org/web/20180701000000/http://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/richard.thaler/vitae/cv.pdf
  13. https://web.archive.org/web/20190108041953/https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/wbs/subjects/bsci/people/nickchater/
  14. https://www.behaviouralinsights.co.uk/people/peter-john/
  15. https://www.behaviouralinsights.co.uk/people/peter-tufano/
  16. https://www.cpexposed.com/documents/cp-links-oxford-university-said-business-school
  17. https://www.bi.team/about-us/