Two-way mirrors, hidden observers: welcome to the Department for Work and Pensions laboratory

Politics and Insights

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I regularly write to raise concerns about the current government’s misuse of psychologyin public policies and research. There has been a shift towards the formulation of targeted, class contingent policies which have the central aim of “changing behaviours.” This neo-behaviourist approach has some profound implications for democracy . It constrains autonomy and curtails the basic liberties of targeted citizens.

On the government website, a contract finderfor the “Provision of Research Laboratory Facilities” for the Department for Work and Pensions says:

“The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) requires research to be undertaken, in a research laboratory environment, with recipients of the Carers Allowance and recipients of the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

In a typical lab situation DWP shall have one DWP researcher in a room with the participant and other DWP researchers (if appropriate) and invited observers behind a two way mirror evaluating what is…

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