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Governmental use of behavioural psychology during the pandemic - a stream of piss into an already overflowing cesspit?


From the document "Options for increasing adherence to social distancing measures - 22 March 2020" by UK Government SAGE group:


8. Social disapproval: Social disapproval from one’s community can play an important role in preventing anti-social behaviour or discouraging failure to enact pro-social behaviour (15)

It is clear from the above that the UK government, on advice from behavioural psychologists employed on its behalf, sought to use peer-pressure as a forcing on people's behaviour during the pandemic.


Was this clever?

As a result of the deliberate 'behave' campaign outlined above it might now be the case that events have been set in motion over which authorities have no control. A key question: did the psychologists ignore the moral marketplace in which we all now operate? Specifically, did they ignore the fact that our moral marketplace feeds on novel  divides?

On March 13th 2021 hundreds of women gathered on Clapham common to hold a vigil in memory of Sarah Everard, who was murdered a few days before. Why were they really there (in defiance of emergency covid laws)?

It is possible they were there (and not 'together online' in the way so many events now are) because after eleven months of virtual house arrest they wanted to get out and be with other people. Paying respect to Sarah Everard was a way in which they could do this. This gathering of individuals needed a good reason. Through the pandemic it is possible, if not likely, many or most of these people were highly vocal in their support of the NHS and therefore critical of lockdown scepticism (as it threatens adherence to the rules and risks burdening the NHS). They were the most yielding to (or the biggest victims of) the government's stoking of 'social disapproval' as a tool to keep everyone in line. Nonetheless, even the most convinced disciple of an idea will crash into human limits: individuals need freedom to be with others. Hemmed in by their (government-influenced) actions through the pandemic, this group therefore needed a powerful motivator to overrule their (government-influenced) concerns about the NHS. With the murder of Sarah Everard systemic male violence against women became that motivator, allowing their yearnings to be free, finally, to be indulged. 

If - and it is an if - these individuals have used the death of a woman as a shield to allow them to do something normal again it is very sad but ultimately the fault of the government and its recourse to behavioural psychology. The home secretary, the Mayor of London and the Metropolitan police are now in crisis and rightly so. The government has followed the advice of behavioural psychologists who forgot something very important about people.

Further monitoring of events over the next few months may provide more evidence of the government's flawed strategy and over-reliance on SAGE's behavioural psychologists.

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