A group of 47 psychologists has claimed this amounts to a strategic decision “to inflate the fear levels of the British public”, which it states is “ethically murky” and has left people too afraid to leave their homes for medical appointments. Led by former NHS consultant psychologist Dr Gary Sidley, the experts have written to the British Psychological Society (BPS) claiming the strategy is “morally questionable.”
In response the government has vehemently denied using covert techniques, saying it’s public information campaigns have been “transparent” and necessary to set out “clear instructions” on how the spread of the virus can be delayed.
It has admitted to communicating public information campaigns 17 per week on average during the peak of the pandemic in order to reach an estimated 95 per cent of adults.
The criticism follows evidence from minutes of the government advisory group Sage of 22 March 2020 which stated: “The perceived level of personal threat needs to be increased among those who are complacent,” by “using hard hitting emotional messaging.”
Dr Sidley said: “It is clear from the methods that are now being used that the government has taken on this advice. Just because the government is explicit in its messaging, however, it does not mean this is not having an impact covertly. It is the way this is communicated that we are concerned about. Psychologists know that while the content of messaging might be factual, the way in which it is delivered will determine its impact and we believe the biggest impact is at a subconscious level which we do not think is ethical or healthy for people. We believe inflating fear levels to achieve compliance may be doing more harm than good.