‘Nudge Unit’ Chief Says UK Will Obey Future Lockdowns: Citizens Have ‘Learnt the Behaviour’

Pedestrians, some wearing a face mask or covering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, walks past
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A UK government adviser is confident any future pandemic lockdown and compulsory mask edicts will be met with compliance because people have learnt a new behaviour and, “in principle, you can switch it back on.”

Professor David Halpern told The Daily Telegraph the country had “practised the drill” of wearing face masks and working from home and “could redo it” in a future crisis because people are now conditioned to do what they are told.

Enforced loss of personal freedoms was one of the hallmarks of the Conservative government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking on the outlet’s Lockdown Files podcast, the government adviser set out his claim of obedience through behavioural interventions, even suggesting the nation’s prior experience made it “much easier to now imagine” the population would accept future local restrictions.

Prof Halpern said that while fear-based messaging in general is not effective, he defended its use in extreme circumstances, choosing not to reference the mass protests that built across the country after the restrictions began in March, 2020.

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“There are times when you do need to cut through… particularly if you think people are wrongly calibrated,” he said.

He said messages on posters used throughout pandemic restrictions acted as visual prompts so that “when you go into a shop or somewhere else, it re-reminds you, it cues, it acts as a trigger for the behaviour.”

The professor said that this messaging encouraged mask-wearing, meaning people felt “naked” when they forgot to put one on.

“Put it this way,” he said. “You would feel like, ‘Oh my God, I haven’t got my mask’. You feel naked, right?”

Once the public has learnt a new behaviour, Prof Halpern said: “In principle, you can switch it back on” even though plenty of UK citizens refused to comply and give up their freedoms in the first place.

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“You’ve got the beginning, particularly, of what is called a habit loop: if this has happened, then you should do that,” he said.

Major disasters “leav[e] this enduring trace on society”, he explained. As well as knowing the drill, this “quasi-evolutionary” impact is a strong indicator of future behaviour, he claimed.

Follow Simon Kent on Twitter: or e-mail to: skent@breitbart.com


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