It is clear from this latest response the BPS is suggesting that:

1. The strategies we referred to were ‘indirect’ rather than covert;

2. The application of psychology in this instance fell outside the realm of individual health decisions (so informed consent was not an issue);

3. Levels of fear within the general population were proportionate to the objective risk posed by the virus, rather than having been strategically inflated;

4. The psychologists’ role in the pandemic response demonstrated the ‘competent and responsible employment of psychological expertise’.

Furthermore, the failure to address the shaming and scapegoating issues clearly implies that the BPS views these tactics as acceptable.

The BPS, on its website, claims to be the organisation ‘responsible for the promotion of excellence and ethical practice in the science, education, and application of the discipline’. Also, their Code of Ethics highlights the BPS’s aim to promote ‘ethical behaviour, attitudes and judgements on the part of Psychologists’. Despite these earnest aspirations, their outright dismissal of our ethical concerns was predictable: a cursory glance at the membership of the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (SPI-B) – the subgroup of SAGE, which has recommended covert psychological ‘nudges’ as a means of maximising the impact of the Government’s Covid-19 communications campaign – shows that several of its members are also influential figures in the BPS.

An increasing number of people – including both health professionals and concerned members of the public – believe that a comprehensive independent review, addressing the ethical basis of deploying covert psychological strategies to lever compliance with public health restrictions, is now urgently required. In light of the rejection of our concerns by the BPS, alternative ways of achieving this much-needed inquiry are now being actively explored.


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