It is a run through of the psych test employed by Jobcentre Plus on unemployed job-seekers
The UK's Tory/LibDem coalition government is very much into behavioural control - influencing you to act, to form opinions, in certain more desirable ways (see also 'nudge theory'). Have you ever heard David Cameron and his Ministers speak for example, especially when announcing a new 'cut' or similar? The careful deliberate precision of "it can't be right that", or "compelling reasons for" or "fair-minded people wouldn't"... the subsequent pause, just to give you time to process the lesson you have just been 'taught'
Is it about precision in stating policy or, are we into the realm of auto-suggestion and mental manipulation at the expense of simple clarity and truth? Come to think of it, are the two even separable in main-stream politics these days?
Here, a perfect example: the DWP's jobseeker psych test, designed to manipulate unemployed people into incorporating certain 'characteristics' into their daily behaviour (as used online by Jobcentre Plus). The online test has very recently been updated - you can no longer click through on the 'proceed' button without answering anything (even this gave you a full psychological profile outlining your key 'strengths'). This test is now used as a Jobseeker Direction - if jobseekers don't complete it they risk losing their benefits. Bear that in mind when you watch the video
In this film we QUICKLY go through the 48-question test 5 times (opening a separate browser (Safari) tab each time and clicking back through the tabs to compare the results):
1st time through: answering only "Very much like me" 2nd: answering only "Very much unlike me" 3rd: answering only "Neutral" 4th: selecting answers top to bottom and then bottom to top, then repeating, apart from the last few questions answered randomly 5th: entirely random (without looking at the questions)
If you want to cut to the quick and see the results, scan on until the 48th question each run through
One final thing, don't forget the "Strength" that features in EACH of the profiles generated, no matter how you complete the test: "Love of learning":
You love learning new things whether in class or on your own You have always loved school reading and museums-anywhere and everywhere there is an opportunity to learn
Post by nickd (Mylegal) on Apr 23, 2013 20:50:14 GMT
Very interesting and yet sinister at the same time. Conditioning 'the plebs' into compliance and inducing a fear of officialdom so as to bring about 'behavioural correction'. The 'Troubled Families' project will no doubt flag up endless reports on this as a role model upon which more of the same will follow.
I see today the papers are full of stuff about the behaviour of children from nursery age, this is getting worrying.
They're into all kinds of psycho suggestive studies. Partly I guess to 'nudge' people in the 'right' direction, the one that steers people well away from any preposterous tendency to have an unhealthy dependency when it comes to relying on the state for support. The one direction that tells people to feel grateful for meagre wages and to be okay about having demolished employment rights; it's the era of the 'survival of the fittest'. You either stand or fall, those that fall don't make the grade.
It's all completely self defeating when on the other hand the agenda is one which focuses on aspiration. What this is about is separating those who can aspire from those that 'must fall in to place'.
I'm sick of these ridiculous tests designed by professors and implemented by information technology experts; the worst part of it all is you lose touch with humanity, this is the road to a dangerous place - it's capitalism in the extreme; outwitting lesser mortals by nudging those that don't aspire in to making those that do a big fat profit!
Government relies on this auto suggestion in all of its 'impact assessments & consultation exercises', they're all highly leading. They all start something like this:
First option. e.g Welfare reform (a) Do nothing
They're framed to get you 'on side' from the very first answer which comes in to your head, especially given that by the time you get to the question you've read the pre-amble telling you
"Welfare currently costs us billions more than we can afford"
The worst thing about our current government is the sinister agenda which runs through the heads of those that propose all of this from the front benches. It is they who need to be psychologically profiled - I suspect the results would truly alarm us all.
Jobseekers are being made to complete bogus psychometric tests by the Department for Work and Pensions – and told that in some cases they risk losing their benefits if they do not complete the meaningless online questionnaire.
Some of the 48 statements on the DWP test include: "I never go out of my way to visit museums," and: "I have not created anything of beauty in the last year." People are asked to grade their answers from "very much like me" to "very much unlike me".
When those being tested complete the official online questionnaire, they are assigned a set of five positive "strengths" including "love of learning" and "curiosity" and "originality".
However, those taking the supposed psychological survey have found that by clicking on the same answer repeatedly, users will get the same set of personality results as those entering a completely opposite set of answers.
An unemployed single mother, who wanted to be referred to as Maggie, said she received an official DWP letter warning her that her jobseekers' allowance of £71 a week "could be stopped for a period of time" if she did not fill out the questionnaire.
The DWP letter said the test was "scientifically shown to find people's strengths" and instructed her that along with searching for work she must complete the online test within three days. "Failure to comply with this direction may result in loss of benefit," it added.
The mother of two young children, who is in her late 20s, said she was upset when she discovered the test was a sham. "It's a waste of time … I felt really disappointed. I thought, you've made me do this and there's a chance I might lose my benefits if I didn't do it but really, I didn't need to do it," Maggie said.
The government's nudge unit is attempting to implement the findings of the field of behavioural economics or "nudge" theory, which says that human behaviour can be shifted dramatically by small changes in the way people are presented with information.
New BIT trial results: 'helping people back into work'
The Behavioural Insights Team has been working with Jobcentre Plus in Loughton, Essex, to help get people back into work. We ran a six month randomised controlled trial to test the impact of three changes we made to the existing Jobcentre Plus system. The trial tested the difference between the existing process and three new changes. The changes were as follows:
1. Making sure every customer talks about getting back to work on their first day (not after 2 weeks) by cutting down and reorganising processes;
2. Introducing stretching commitment devices which focus on what the job seeker will do for the whole of the next fortnight. This replaces the present system where advisors ask if job seekers have done three job search activities in each of the previous two weeks;
3. Building psychological resilience and wellbeing for those who are still claiming after 8 weeks through ‘expressive writing’ and strengths identification.
The results are impressive: job seekers in the treatment group are 15-20% more likely than those in the control group to be off benefits 13 weeks after signing on (see graph below). Following these results, we are about to launch a much bigger trial across all of Essex, alongside even larger trials in the North East.
Loughton trial results – a randomised trial on 13 week off-flow
Beware those in Essex and parts of the North East - you are about to be 'conditioned' in to Jobseeking; government desperately wants you off the dole - the fact you may end up in a mental institution after having your head probed with the DWP's latest 'electro conditionality therapy' (ECT) is a mere irrelevance. As long as your behavioural insight is being corrected your stay is guaranteed until such times as you can aspire to get 'Britain Working'.
ECT available at your Jobcentre soon....
Joking aside; should we not be alarmed when the 'Behavioural Insights Team' seems to be working with an accent on 'control' groups?
Post by Patrick Torsney on May 1, 2013 14:35:35 GMT
What is interesting about that graph is that the BIT team's involvement is actually dropping each month from inception
On a linked point, the piece talks of a 6 month trial but it only shows 3 months in the graph, as far as I can work out. I note on the BIT site that nickd (Mylegal) links to, someone has asked this same question - did it go on after August? Wondering, as I am, whether the downward trend continued perhaps? That particular question has not been answered
Whilst we are talking about this, the news is today that the BIT team is to become a profit-making enterprise. Nice for them, now that they cut their teeth on the unemployed and other government 'initiatives'. Personally, and the 'missing three months' aside, I disagree with the appropriateness of a government seeking to alter someone's behaviour by what is nothing more than deception. The jobless and the poor are not patients and the team here dabbling with psycho-sense are certainly not medical professionals. With that, either the BIT team are practising a method that is entirely beyond the level of support that is appropriate to offer a citizen or, it is just common-sense dressed up in the Emperor's new clothes
I think it would also be interesting to see which Ministers have a stake in the private company(ies) that end up aligning themselves with this team in the interests of profits. It might provide an interesting angle on the line on the privatising of Whitehall functions, especially the profitable ones. Interesting too that this announcement came one day after the Guardian piece criticising the work of the team and a longer time after our own and Steve Walker's work on them. But that is surely just coincidence....
'Nudge unit' to become profit-making
Government's behavioural insight team, which tries to change voters' behaviour without legislation, to be spun off as mutual
Patrick Wintour, political editor The Guardian, Wednesday 1 May 2013
John Lewis staff hear the group's financial results – staff 'partners' get a 17% bonus. The 'nudge unit' will become a John Lewis-style mutual. Photograph: David Levene
Since the unit was set up three years ago, it has become an internationally renowned source of ideas on how to change voters' behaviour without legislation, often using techniques drawn from psychology and advertising, as well as common sense.
The 10-strong Cabinet Office team will be the first policy unit to be spun off from central government and become a John Lewis-style mutual.
The small team – costing roughly £500,000 a year and run by David Halpern – was set up after the last general election to find ways of encouraging people to make better choices, including on lifestyle and health.
It is claimed that it has saved the taxpayer millions of pounds. Demand for its services from within government, as well as the private sector and foreign governments, has grown year on year.
The new business will be one-third owned by government, with a third-party partner putting in investment, and the employees themselves owning the remainder.
The hope is that the setup will encourage the staff to use their expertise to gain more international contracts and expand.
Post by Patrick Torsney on May 1, 2013 14:41:59 GMT
For the record, nickd (Mylegal)'s BIT piece above is actually an old article - December 2012. Nick, can you stick a date on things like this in future please, otherwise people are going to be accusing you of trying to 'nudge' people's opinions/perceptions yourself...
Post by Patrick Torsney on May 1, 2013 18:51:51 GMT
Thanks throwaway12, that's really helpful - Gemma's blog is especially good so thank you for the link to that too - I'd looked at the source code but hadn't been able to figure out how it all fitted together
I'm still curious about the scoring though and I'll think some more about this, especially where it ties into ranking. For example, what I can't work out is that assuming strength_value = (5 - odd_question_score) + (even_question_score + 1) is correct, and that this can give you a score for each one of the 24 strengths, it seems to me there is a reasonable chance of scoring identically on two or more strengths by repeating the odd/even answer combination. So, where this happens, how does the calculation prioritise and rank equal strength scores into the ones chosen for the final report?
Reading Gemma's piece I do wonder whether the code has been adapted from something else - a bit of a pick and mix maybe to suit a particular project
Of course all this, whilst fascinating, keeps us from addressing the appropriateness of what the DWP have been calling a 'placebo' test on members of the public - that's a government agency doing something for no reason other than to instil a particular psychological behaviour or characteristic into recipients - certain members of the public - without their knowledge
We assume that things like this are done with the best intentions and therefore have some legitimacy - helping people get into work (even though that misses the fact that there isn't enough work for everyone and therefore deflects in itself from the real issue). However, how would you feel being on the receiving end of one of these dabbling 'nudge experiments' in real life? Who is to say we aren't already? Isn't this just a very public and blatant step towards one group within society deciding what is in the interests of the other group, being prepared to lie to them in order to then manipulate and have them perform or act in a certain way? Is that right?
All this stuff is really clever and very interesting but, when (and where) do we draw the line?
Post by nickd (Mylegal) on May 1, 2013 21:00:53 GMT
Duly noted Patrick Torsney or rather 'nudged' in to compliance. 'Thou shall affix dates to all future posts'
To be honest I'd completely overlooked the date, it doesn't seem possible that we've moved on so quickly since Christmas.
Back to topic.
I was having a think about all of this 'behavioural control' and yes it is absolutely right that we ask 'where does it all end'? To take it a bit further what also concerns me is how this kind of information will be utilised with other IT data sources growing like wildfire within the DWP & its allied army of private contractors. Take the results of Atos capability assessments and all the information which will go in to Personal Independence Allowance disability analysis. Whilst individual medical information should remain confidential, there's plenty of scope here for linking certain claimant situations & 'disability' traits which are picked up in these assessments and merged with profiling tests to map 'claimant trends'.
Has the information got scope for being used adversely against claimants so as to justify further conditionality? We've seen plenty of examples of extreme media vilification but on the whole they are based on flimsy evidence. Will participation in all of these tests bring about more powerful evidence which can be used against claimants to suggest they are responsible for bringing about their own situations? Claimants being accused of contributing to their own disability by virtue of all of that may be picked up in this profiling?
Taking it a step further, what about offender profiling? By which I mean not just those who have been caught but using extended versions of these profiling projects to work out 'who is likely to offend'?
Government loves IT projects of any kind, the scope for sinister profiling is in my view immense. Where's any sign of those in 'power' being profiled to see whether their behaviour may need to be 'modified'? I suppose you could argue that had such profiling been in place around the time of say Hitler, perhaps, it may have stopped him in his tracks well before all the harm was inflicted upon so many at his command? I don't view it as irrelevant to point out that one of the dangers in encouraging all of this 'aspiration' nation stuff is that people may aspire to do things which are not just good for others but also potentially harmful to many.
I'm not for any of this profiling, I happen to think the human mind is way more complex than any computer programme can ever cater for, but if it becomes part of society my point would be; there is perhaps more to be gained by profiling those who have the means to inflict the greater damage?
I could think of one or two people they could make a start on.