Persuading Us To Be Good
As long-standing readers will know (if there are any), when I'm not putting in freedom of information requests, I am often to be found making political documentaries for Radio 4.
My latest one is called Persuading Us To Be Good. It's about how the state can use principles from the psychology of persuasion to influence us into recycling more, drinking less, turning up for our medical appointments, and everything else it wants good citizens to do.
(Unfortunately, this agenda doesn't seem to include keeping up with blog posts, so apologies for the fact I've been quiet here recently while working on the programme.)
I've written about it elsewhere on the BBC news website, so won't repeat that. But I will add a freedom of information angle here.
Through an FOI request I obtained a report commissioned by the Home Office in 2007 analysing the effectiveness of some literature aimed at discouraging anti-social behaviour.
It was written by Steve Martin of the consultancy Influence at Work, and concluded that some leaflets were more likely to encourage anti-social behaviour than discourage it.
This is one example, issued by the Suffolk Coastal Crime Reduction Partnership. In Mr Martin's view, the fact that it shows five graffiti artists and only one person protesting against them presents graffiti-writing as a social norm while marginalising objections to it. It is therefore counter-productive.
In the programme (presented by Daniel Finkelstein of the Times), we examine the role of factors such as peer pressure in influencing public behaviour. It's on BBC Radio 4 at 8.00pm tonight, repeated at 5.00pm on Sunday, and online here. Please let me know what you think of it.