Groupthink and NLP reaches the DWP

Part reprinted from El Reg in case you weren’t there today:

Bloggers have discovered that the Department for Work and Pensions is using an obviously defective personality test in a bid to get jobseekers off the dole and into work.

The psychometric test in question is supposedly designed to assess an unemployed person’s “signature strengths”. However, it was actually primed to give nothing but positive statements regarding the user’s employability, regardless of whether any information was input at all.

Apparently inspired by the writings of Martin Seligman – the prof whose work in torturing dogs with electric shocks later influenced development of American “enhanced interrogation techniques” such as waterboarding in the War On Terror – the DWP’s new test was initially used to assess the personalities of dole claimants in Loughton, Essex. Now, however, it appears to be being used across the country.

The programme was created by the government’s Behavioural Insights Team (also known as the “nudge unit”) – a shadowy and ever-so-slightly ludicrous Cabinet Office department which uses behavioural economics and psychological techniques to create a supposedly better society.

Rather than getting people to do what the government would like them to do by way of raising taxes, imposing threats of prison and withholding state support, citizens must be nudged into taking the “right” action, the unit suggests.

Pseudonymous socialist blogger Skwawkbox discovered the faulty test, which tells those taking it that they’re great employment material no matter what answers they input (this includes not inputting any answers at all). He blogs against the government’s welfare reforms and described the test as “sinister psychological bullying”, and indeed went as far as using a pic of an individual being waterboarded to show the torture being inflicted on the jobless.

[H/T Chuckles]

2 comments for “Groupthink and NLP reaches the DWP

  1. April 25, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    I guess Abu Qatada has been exempted from this test 👿

  2. amfortas
    April 26, 2013 at 6:31 am

    Sorry to be so disagreeable but to support Liberty one must start from being fair and reasonable. El Reg, and this article is neither.

    The ‘test’ is ‘taken’ from Seligman’s work and was not designed for use in such an environment. It is a misuse and by people with seemingly no sensitivity to Psychological testing protocols. We are not even shown the test, nor it’s scoring, nor its ‘morms’. We have only El Reg’s condemnation. There is no indication that Seligman himself has been consulted about the use of his insights and tools, nor whether the ‘results’ paragraphs were simply invented by some horoscope provider doing a bit of part-time work in the Benefits Office.

    Seligman himself, we are told works in ‘torturing dogs’ without our being given even a hint of context and ignoring an enormous body of fine work as a psychologist. This is ad hominem rather than factual arguement.

    El Reg gives his position away describing ‘terrified benefit claimants’. The ‘Sqawkbox’ talks of the intent to “terrify unemployed people into compliance” As if ! I take it that El Reg is not a psychologist and has little experience or technical knowledge in the field of psychological testing. One might just as well listen to the ill-considered ‘opinion’ of a 16 y/0 bricky’s mate when faced with a in-flight emergency on a 747.

    Lest I be considered unfair and unreasonable regarding El Reg, I am quite willing to listen to his better and more reasoned comments on this matter, if, indeed, he has any to offer.

Comments are closed.