January 3, 2011
Shame, vanity, laziness and the desire to fit in are all to be used as tools of Government policy by ministers acting on the advice of a new psychology unit in Whitehall.
The first glimpse into the confidential work of the Cabinet Office’s Behavioural Insight Team came on Tuesday when ministers suggested members of the public should be able to make small charitable donations when using cashpoints and their credit cards.
On Friday, the Cabinet Office again followed the unit’s advice in proposing that learner drivers be opted in to an organ donation scheme when they apply for a licence, and also floated the idea of creating a lottery to encourage people to take tests to prove they have quit smoking.
These initiatives are examples of the application of mental techniques which, while seemingly paradoxical to the Coalition’s goal of a smaller state, are likely to become a common feature of Government policy.
The public will have “social norms” heavily emphasised to them in an attempt to increase healthy eating, voluntary work and tax gathering. Appeals will be made to “egotism” in a bid to foster individual support for the Big Society, while much greater use will be made of default options to select benevolent outcomes for passive citizens – exemplified by the organ donation scheme.