MoD looks into improving psychological warfare potential

The British military has been looking into improving its potential to implement psychological warfare and behavioural manipulation, according to leaked documents seen by a student newspaper.

Cambridge University's publication Varsity revealed that officials from the Ministry of Defence's Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) have been seeking a partner for a project referred to as the human and social sciences research capability (HSSRC).

This would examine ways of influencing human behaviour in combat and non-combat situations, with any partners signing up to receive millions of pounds in educational funds.

"Researchers and collaborators would bring world-leading research to support the armed services in diverse areas such as rapid decision-making in complex situations and in improving the wellbeing of service personnel with regard to recruitment, training and retention, family life, and gender," the leaked documents said.

The MoD was also seeking to test concepts, tools and techniques for analysing audiences in order to plan appropriate activities, Varsity reported, as well as how to carry out targeted manipulation of information in virtual and physical domains that would shape attitudes and beliefs.

A number of UK universities were approached, including Cambridge and Lancaster, but academics expressed concerns over a conflict of interests and most have now withdrawn from the initiative.

With modern advances in communications and public opinion analysis, psychological warfare has become a more widespread technique in 21st century conflicts and most modern armies have specialised units trained and equipped for it.

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