UK’s “Nudge Unit” recommends various online psychological manipulations when people shop and travel to push a “net zero society”
The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) – started by the UK government to then in late 2021 become owned by Nesta, which describes itself as an independent charity focused on innovation – has a new report out.
And while its authors present it as a useful “guide” toward building “a net zero society,” what observers critical of this content have taken away from it is that it is promoting, and detailing, various forms of psychological manipulation of people.
The problem that Behavioural Insights Team (aka, “Nudge Unit”) has found for itself to solve is a part of the climate change narrative, where achieving “net zero” means doing away with greenhouse gas emissions.
And they don’t seem to care if the way to get there is through direct manipulation of people, specifically online, via prompts (“nudges”) toward making choices that are not really theirs but serve the agenda.
These choices concern and consume people’s everyday lives: what they wear, what and how much they eat, how they travel to work, whether that job is “climate-friendly,” how they travel just in general and where to, for example, for a vacation.
These are all examples of what the report aims to affect from the behavioral perspective, and clearly, the “solution” is to actively push citizens toward “social transformation.”
In this sense, the report recommends putting prompts in apps that would seek to direct the user to order less takeaway food through what critics might call “reality transformation” – one suggestion is changing the name of small portions to “regular portions.”
At one point, the report mentions BIT case study 4, which deals with “exploring” the role of social media influencers as vehicles to promote “green behaviors.”
BIT case study 12, meanwhile, is about “Helping Solent Transport deliver an effective ‘Mobility as a Service’ app.” Solent Transport is a partnership with local transport authorities, while the main idea here is “encouraging people out of cars” and “nudging” them toward other means of transportation.
BIT case study 15 is one about “encouraging” customers to order smaller portions on takeaway platforms.
Several suggestions are made to make “sustainable food easy,” including utilizing the fact that online shopping “gives many opportunities to provide timely substitution prompts, or encourage personalized goals and tips linked to product filters and ranking.”
BIT says that in producing these case studies of interventions, it partnered with “HMG, the French government, UAE’s Crown Prince Court, World Wildlife Forum, Unilever, Tesco, Sky, Gumtree, and Cogo,” among others.
This post was originally published at Reclaim The Net
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