New Executive Order: Government Must Use Behavioral Science

Barack Obama has issued an executive order for agencies to use behavioral science to make policies.

If you have ever felt that the government was trying to manipulate you… well, it might get worse. Barack Obama believes so strongly in the power of the behavioral sciences to reach us that he has made its use official. Breitbart.com reports,

A new executive order from President Obama directs all government agencies to use psychological science and data to help connect more Americans to government programs.

The order instructs government agencies to use “behavioral science”— a tactic used by Obama’s political campaigns to harness data from their supporters to target them effectively.

The program has already existed in an experimental form, but now Obama has formally established the federal “Social and Behavioral Sciences Team,” ordering them to to use psychology and experimental behavior data to make government more user-friendly.

An example of these techniques used during Obama’s campaign was that it was better to affirm a positive message rather than denying a negative message.

According to reports, behavioral science was used to advise the campaign to focus on Obama’s Christianity instead of trying to deny the notion that he was a Muslim. Other tactics included encouraging supporters to act for the campaign in small ways before asking them to commit to bigger goals.

A study released today by the president’s office of National Science and Technology reveals that behavioral science has already helped government agencies target individuals.

Oftentimes, studies of individuals’ behavior led federal agencies to tweak their approach to adjust and simplify their approach to bring in greater results.

I’m not sure what to think of this. The executive order might be nothing more than an attempt to help some group of special interests in the behavioral sciences by giving them new opportunities for jobs as consultants to government agencies.

But using the behavioral sciences to reach people can also have a more sinister interpretation.

The Breitbart story claims that more people enrolled in Obamacare because of carefully researched letters.

But we also know that many people are still refusing to enroll, so I’m not sure exactly how powerful this behavioral research really is. Politicians like to believe they have ways of controlling people, so they are constantly credulous when “experts” claim to have that ability through “science.”