Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours

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Group.png Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours
(Advisory group)Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Membership• Richard Amlôt
• Imran Awan
• Laura Bear
• Chris Bonell
• Ellen Brooks-Pollock
• Val Curtis
• Stephen David Reicher
• Laura de Moliere
• John Drury
• Mark Egan
• Nicola Fear
• David Halpern
• Hugo Harper
• Daniel Leightley
• Theresa Marteau
• Shaun McNally
• G. J. Melendez-Torres
• Susan Michie
• Gavin Morgan
• Paul Netherton
• Richard Pemberton
• Henry Potts
• Lorna Riddle
• Brooke Rogers
• James Rubin
• Kathryn Scott
• Louise Smith
• Hugh Stickland
• Clifford Stott
• Russell Viner
• Jo Waller
• Charlotte Watts
• Robert West
• Lucy Yardley

The UK Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours (SPI-B) is connected to the UK Behavioural Insights Team, though personnel (f.ex. David Halpern) and methods. It was used during the 2009 swine flu and reconvened on 13 February 2020, for the Covid-19 psychological measures.[1]


SPI-B provides advice aimed at anticipating and helping people adhere to interventions that are recommended by medical or epidemiological experts.[2]. But SPI-B takes no part in discussion about which interventions are effective in dealing with ‘pandemics’, or their timing.

Swine Flu

During the 2009/10 ‘swine flu’ pandemic, SAGE received advice from a subgroup called the Scientific Pandemic Influenza group on Behaviour and Communications (SPI-B&C).


On 22 March 2020, in preparation for a SAGE meeting to be held the following day, SPI-B published a document titled Options for increasing adherence to social distancing measures.[3]

According to the document, there are nine “broad ways” of achieving behaviour change: Education, Persuasion, Incentivisation, Coercion, Enablement, Training, Restriction, Environmental restructuring, and Modelling.

The SPI-B advises a propaganda campaign, including "The perceived level of personal threat needs to be increased among those who are complacent, using hard-hitting emotional messaging."

They also want the campaign to "increase confidence" that the government interventions "will be effective", without considering whether effectiveness is in fact the case.

SPI-B states that "social approval can be a powerful source of reward (..) Communication strategies should provide social approval for desired behaviours and promote social approval within the community", and where "Social disapproval from one’s community can play an important role in preventing anti-social behaviour or discouraging failure to enact pro-social behaviour" (...) "However, this needs to be carefully managed to avoid victimisation, scapegoating and misdirected criticism."

In an appendix to their main recommendation, SPI-B produced a table which they entitled APEASE (Acceptability, Practicability, Effectiveness, Affordability, Spill-over effects, Equity). They describe it as an “evaluation grid for options to rapidly increase general social distancing.” Here, they make clear how they see the role of the media: to act as a conduit for the ‘behavioural’ message (propaganda).

They recommend (a recommendation that obviously was followed) that the media is used:

   *to increase sense of personal threat
   *to increase sense of responsibility to others
   *to promote positive messaging around actions