FAKE DWP ‘test’ reveals sinister govt ‘psy-war’

Please read and share this widely – I think it might just be massive.

I wrote yesterday about the psychological bullying being inflicted on unemployed people by Jobcentre Plus on behalf of the Department of Work and Pensions, as huge, intimidating tasks are inflicted on people with minimal literacy, confidence and computer skills – backed by the threat of benefit ‘sanctions’ if they are not completed by a very short deadline.

But it gets even worse. One part of the series of tasks being imposed is an online ‘My strengths test’, consisting of a series of 48 multiple-choice answers to questions about your personality.

I can reveal that this ‘test’ is a completely bogus scam designed to manipulate unemployed people into performing a completely random, week-long exercise of incorporating supposed ‘characteristics’ into their daily behaviour.

How do I know this? Because the ‘test’ is fake – it allocates you a ‘personality’ even if you don’t answer the questions.

Try it for yourself here (at least until the government finds out it’s been rumbled and changes or removes the test). I clicked ‘next’ on each of the 48 questions until I reached the end. This is what came up after the last question page:


The page goes on to list 5 ‘strengths’ and to instruct respondents to enter their email address so they can discuss the ‘results’ with their Jobcentre Plus advisor. Not only this, but the covering letter that comes with the instruction to complete the ‘test’ tells the recipient that he or she must

use each of your strengths in a new way everyday (sic) for at least a week.

Untold numbers of people running around trying to use ‘strengths’ that actually have nothing to do with their actual personality – all under the threat of losing their income if they fail to comply.

A quick search of the root directory of the site reveals that, even though this site is called ‘Behaviour Library’, there are no other tests on the site. The title of the site is selected to give the impression that there is a scientific basis for the test and that it is conducted by some kind of specialist organisation competent to conduct psychometric testing – but there is not even any information to identify who devised the questions.


What there is, however, is a couple of Tory white papers – and a very revealing Powerpoint presentation. While the information in the presentation is clearly designed to provide prompts for someone to speak over, it is clearly about a particularly dark version of the government’s ‘nudge’ theory to influence behaviour.

This PowerPoint file contains some very sinister images about the kind of psychological impact the government is aiming for:




There is no doubt at all that the point of this ‘test’ – and the process of which it is part – is to terrify unemployed people into compliance and to set many up to fail so that they can be ‘sanctioned’ and have their benefits stopped.

Could there be any clearer demonstration that this government has no concern at all for the unemployed and the unfortunate? The Tories don’t even want everyone to be in work because they fear it would push up wages from the pathetic levels we see in many jobs – and it’s on the official record that this is the case.

But it goes beyond that. Chillingly, this Tory-led government has taken a cynical decision to terrify disadvantaged people into jumping through hoops to manipulate them into taking even the most insecure, unsuitable and low-paying jobs – or else be cast onto the ‘sanctioned’ heap and cut off from support anyway.

And this is not the only way they do it, as you’ll find out if you ask any disabled person about their experiences with the DWP – while they demonise them to turn so-called ‘strivers’ against them. Divide and conquer.

This ‘test’ is a tool for abuse and psychological torture and a ruse to fool the electorate into thinking the Tories are interested in getting people back to work. They’re interested in cutting them off from their benefits, but that’s a different matter altogether.

If you’re not worried about this, you should be. This is a government that wants the right to access all our emails and the right to try us in secret. If this is how they behave in one area, can they be trusted in any other?

This sinister government ploy needs to be exposed as the ‘Big Brother’ mind-control torture that it is – and its perpetrators must be held to account. Including David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith.


  1. I though I rexognised the questions. Interestingly the first two questions at least seem to have been copied verbatim from a pop sci book called;
    Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment

    Wonder whether this was licensed? 😉

    Page 141 in Google books:

  2. I just did it and answered “neutral” to every single question. This is what I got:

    Strength 1. Curiosity
    You are curious about everything. You are always asking questions, and you find all subjects and topics fascinating. You like exploration and discovery.

    Strength 2. Love of learning
    You love learning new things, whether in a class or on your own. You have always loved school, reading, and museums-anywhere and everywhere there is an opportunity to learn.

    Strength 3. Critical Thinking
    Thinking things through and examining them from all sides are important aspects of who you are. You do not jump to conclusions, and you rely only on solid evidence to make your decisions. You are able to change your mind.

    Strength 4. Originality
    Thinking of new ways to do things is a crucial part of who you are. You are never content with doing something the conventional way if a better way is possible.

    Strength 5. Social Intelligence
    You are aware of the motives and feelings of other people. You know what to do to fit in to different social situations, and you know what to do to put others at ease.

    1. Same as if you enter all strong positive or all strong negative. I suppose that’s reasonable as the “balance” between the answers is the same in each case.

  3. Martin Seligman’s learned optimism brand of popular psychology needs to always be used cautiously. It should never be hijacked to be used this way. It is intended that psychometric tests like this are for recruitment as a part of selection (originally by companies needing salespeople).

    1. Certainly the ethical code has been breached. “Do no harm” is fundamental. The learned helplessness hypothesis appears to have been based on soundly thought out subject experiments carried out by Seligman and colleagues.
      However, your question is a good one. As I read more about Seligman the more concerned I am that the “value” is purely commercial now. I feel Seligman’s written style has become profoundly irritating and patronising.

      1. Commercial indeed. Here is one site of Seligman’s http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/Default.aspx . I was born in America, trained as a mathematical logician and philosopher, moved to the EU in 72 and watched this and related movements slowly replace much academic and clinical psychology with commercial pop-psychology. I was dismayed. An interesting talk about all this from a realist viewpoint I share, is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJGMFu74a70.

      2. And Karen, apart from the mistake of the intimidating letters, I don’t see that the intervention itself offers much chance of harm, even if it the way it intends to help is covert and it’s not very convincingly executed.

        They will have needed to make their case that there was very little chance of harm to anyone for this to have gone ahead.

      3. Do no harm. What I mean is the type of statements (they call them questions) and the buttons available with the test are harmful. For example
        14 Pain and disappointment often get the better of me
        22. I have trouble accepting love from others
        36. I have not created anything of beauty this year
        42. I do not have a calling in life
        44. I always get even
        48. I mope a lot
        Apologies if I wasn’t clear about this.

      4. Forgot to add that informed consent is crucial to doing “tests” like this. I very much doubt that a JSD would allow for informed consent.

    2. That is precisely what they were trying to determine by testing this intervention. The evidence based approach the “Behavioural Insights” team is taking would knock down many of the worst ideas of Michael Gove, Chris Grayling and others if applied. Those are ministers who seem to like pulling policy straight out from poisonously ideological arses. Trying interventions to help people and having the humility to properly test whether they work should be applauded but sending threatening letters shouldn’t be.

      1. @Karin. Good choice. Here is an example of what I think you mean by ‘harm.’ Consider 36. Suppose I were ill, on benefits and depressed. *Now,* just seeing* 36, even without responding, can cause me to feel that I *ought to have* created something beautiful this year, but have not. Not living up to the perceived expectation can harm me, e.g. by making me more depressed than I already was. Finally, using such a potentially loaded question (its effect depends on the reader) might reflect some ethical notion of Seligman’s that need not be a universal norm. So 36 can 1. intimidate and 2. induce an idea of proper behaviour that one might not need to follow.

      2. Yes Georgeabsolutely. I know somebody who is rapid cycling bipolar. In a euphoric stage she would be the optimist and when in a depressed stage all the doubts even one of the statements raises would definitely put her in a suicidal frame of mind. The results page would not reflect her mental health problems at all. So not only a useless test but also dangerous.

      3. Unfortunately, the test will be on real jobseekers some of whom will have mental health problms and who will not have given informed consent.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: