The British government’s so-called “nudge unit” has had one of its toys taken away. The nudgers are mandated to make special efforts to move what are seen as extra-problematic social welfare cases into employment by taking them to task for personal behaviour seen to be creating barriers to employment. A psychometric test devised by a US firm designed to help subjects of the cabinet-level Downing Street Behavioural Insight Team gain understanding of what they might do besides burden society has failed its scientific validation and its publisher has advised the British government to stop using it. The media is asking questions about the tests and now the whole scheme is looking shallow and unethical at best. Bloggers and other critics describe the test widely as a “sham”, as “bogus” and as “snake oil”.
Fake DWP ‘test’ reveals sinister govt ‘psy-war’ Skwakbox
The four-dozen questions in the test require graded answers to statements about a variety of things such as how often a job seeker creates things of beauty or visits museums. The test was apparently explained to job seekers as objectively able to determine the strengths of the individual taking it. This type of testing is a well-established mini industry unto itself within the world of human resources management and yet this particular tool is now in discredit. It would seem, in this instance, to in fact be a pseudo-scientific instrument used to enforce the idea that unemployment, poverty and social difficulty are the result of defects in character. Such defects in turn are said to be entirely correctable through better decision making, positive thinking, and the creation and enactment of a rational plan of higher goals for oneself within an economy based on rewards for merit, self-knowledge, high levels of effort and freedom of opportunity.
The nudge unit’s days are probably numbered now. It is set to take its ten or so employees into a partially privatized arrangement though it is tough to see how it can have meaningful influence on policy or be seen as credible by its clients after embarrassing itself so much.
Jobseekers’ psychometric test ‘is a failure’: US institute that devised questionnaire tells ‘nudge’ unit to stop using it as it failed to be scientifically validated guardian.co.uk
image: psycho-surgery in the 1940s by HA Ewing via Wikimedia Commons
Poverty and inequality can wreck human health. No debate there, really. Without our health we are not fully the people we want to be, in our own life or the lives of those around us. Dennis Raphael of York University has researched and written extensively about how Canada is, to be honest, in a state of underachievement in this area. The second edition of his book Poverty In Canada: Implications for Health and Quality of Life was very well received at suburban-poverty.com in the fall of 2011. We recently came across some further sources from Professor Raphael and pass them on via this posting.
Professor Raphael discussed Tackling Health Inequalities: Lessons From International Experiences online at Griffith’s University’s Podcasts for Social Workers earlier this month. He was the editor of this work, released in the fall of 2012, and in it expresses concern Canada has become a laggard in preventing avoidable, unjust situations that degrade health outcomes. Valuable stuff… Podsocs Episode 38 37:05
Data from Poverty in Canada and newer material has been made available online in .pdf format. Professor Raphael is critical of mainstream media attention to these issues and he hopes to go directly to people with his findings. Here’s the link:
Social Determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts
Along with co-author Juha Mikkonen, Raphael seeks to expose the general public and mass media to the overwhelming evidence that living conditions (housing, income, medical care, social supports and the like) trump individual lifestyle approaches (cutting down on cola consumption for example) in determining who will be healthy or not. Social policy in turn, which is deliberately chosen in societies like Canada, has a massive influence on who stays healthy. This runs contrary to the view that we as individuals are solely responsible for our health and had hence better get ourselves to the local gym, credit card in hand. If we are low income Canadians, it would seem our health is at risk from our social class. This is even more true for children. Internationally, we see the social democratic countries of northern Europe spending more to protect their people from class-derived health damage – and reaping a social benefit for doing so.
See a lecture! The Politics of Population Health
York U material from Nursing 5190
Also, a presentation at the University of Toronto on how Canada stacks up against other nations in providing citizens with economic & social security.
Vital Discussions of Human Security vimeo.com 80:49
Series of talks at University of Toronto 2011-2012
See also: (62) Poverty in Canada [Book review]