back to article GCHQ's cyberspooks had Nudge Unit envy – leak

As 10 Downing Street was establishing a Behavioural Insights Team, or "Nudge" unit, based on pop psychology, so too were the spooks at GCHQ. Clearly not wishing to be left out of the behavioural craze sweeping the chattering classes and the thinkfluencers in the ad world, spooks thought they should be brought up to speed on …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds like the basis for Evelyn Waugh's other novel...


    I would like think that there are several layers to any Intelligence Agency. There is the Media Arm which makes up anything that it thinks will keep the public at bay.

    There is the mainstream arm, which has been specifically created to attract those in the Agency and to let them think what they are doing are really important, ie, those that would be really dangerous if they actually had as much control and influence as they thought they did. Think of the current part in power in relation to the Civil Service.

    There is the Governmental liaison arm, which are also split into two sections, one for the mainstream arm to encourage wasteful faff to keep them busy (lots of expense accounts), and one for Actual Agency arm.

    Then, the Actual Agency, that do the real high flying stuff. Stuff that you *would* be killed if you found out about. It probably involves electrified nipple* clamps.

    What this does mean, however, is that they certain are not 'armless. <ahem>

    *Only if you are really would prefer them to the others....

    1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

      Re: Sounds like the basis for Evelyn Waugh's other novel...

      ...Then, the Actual Agency, that do the real high flying stuff. Stuff that you *would* be killed if you found out about....

      Alas, this bit doesn't actually exist. It is made up by the other, far more powerful and secretive section, which you don't even cover in your item.

      This is the Budget section, which is tasked with maintaining the existence and budget for the Security and Intelligence services, even though WW2 and the Cold War (which originally provided the justification for their existence) have now long since finished...

  2. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    Small samples

    "One important caveat to the psychological work on the above topics is that it has for the most part been based on limited samples of the human population (white, middle-class, American, male, students).

    This lack of representativeness means that the theories and research findings may not be generalisable to to other populations.

    Or even generalisable to females – more than 50 per cent of the population.

    The issue of small sample size would eventually be recognised as a problem in neuroscience – as we reported here, most fMRI studies were completely worthless, despite the dramatic and colourful pictures of "your brain on..." (whatever a Harvard undergrad's brain was on that day).

    But we rarely saw that caveat at the height of the mania for neuroscience-inspired pop psych, when the media couldn't give us enough fMRI-derived pseudoscience. Even as our chatterati was heralding the behavioural woo as "new discoveries in psychology", they either didn't know that the "brain science" on which it is founded was being conducted on tiny (typically fewer than 20 participants) studies."

    In his book "Thinking, Fast and Slow", Chapter 10, Daniel Kahneman rightly warns of using statistics based on small samples. Sadly he subsequently bases much o fhis book on experiments conducted on few and unrepresentative samples. One of the experiments about how many people would rush to help someone in distress was conducted on only 15 people (3 times, each on 5 people. Nonetheless he claims that 27% of people would rush to help someone. (The experiment as described is also flawed, but that's another story.)

    Which is unfortunate because Kahneman does have some useful insights about people and how we make decisions, as, I expect the 'spooks' at GCHQ probably do.

  3. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Something for the Weekend and Weakened

    Hi, Andrew …. and GCHQ [for if they aint phishing for phorming matériel via a’browsing intellectual property offering on El Reg, are they virtually unfit for future leading purpose in Greater IntelAIgent Games Plays and more to be recognised and feted as pwnd puppet than Worshipful Grand Master]

    When will it become apparent to mass mainstream media and Intelligence Service Providers, that their current austere and disruptive output, allied to the lack of any effective punitive proaction and HyperRadioProActive IT opposition and competition to status quo institutions and too big to micromanage and macro control establishments/ponzi power brokerages, extraordinarily render all such players increasingly easily identified as merely bit crowd playing extras in a blockbuster production with stars performing miracles practically in alternative interacting and sublimely internetworking fields of information, education and entertainment.

    Failure to make a jump into the dark and partake of the deep and mysterious waters of the webs which are being weaved to be believed, will see all such anonymous cowards following late in the oversubscribed rear rather than admiring novel fantastic ultra high definition views from above and far from the madding crowd, and at the front and in the thick of everything.

    And if the West are not able to run and enable with IT, is it only logical that the East will be provided with the same expertise to sample their awareness of the opportunities ready for immediate exploitation and pwning/import and export.

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