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Maya Shankar, a White House adviser cultivating a team tasked with subtly influencing Americans’ behavior, previously worked closely with the George Soros-funded Center for American Progress, WND has learned.
Shankar has discussed utilizing cognitive science for social activism and is a champion of so-called social justice.
FoxNews.com ran a piece Tuesday on Shankar’s team, which is seeking experienced behavioral scientists looking to change people’s actions on everything from tax compliance to energy costs.
Shankar compiled a document outlining her “Behavioral Insights Team,” explaining a “growing body of evidence suggests that insights from the social and behavioral sciences can be used to help design public policies that work better, cost less, and help people to achieve their goals.”
One professor who forwarded Shankar’s document to others affectionately referred to the effort as the White House “nudge” squad.
As FoxNews.com pointed out, policies aimed at altering a population’s attitude became known as “nudges” after the term was popularized by Obama’s controversial former regulatory czar, Cass Sunstein, who penned a 2008 book called “Nudge.”
Shankar, a late-20s Yale graduate, has been described as a wunderkind. She joined the Obama administration in April as a senior policy advisor at the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy.
While at Yale, Shankar founded and served as editor-in-chief of The Five, a magazine committed to social activism and social justice.
Her magazine was sponsored by the Soros-funded Center for American Progress, or CAP.
Shankar also was a member of the Student Advisory Board for Campus Progress, the campus wing of CAP.
CAP has long been closely tied to the Obama administration. The center’s co-director, John Podesta, was co-director of Obama’s White House transition team.
A Time magazine article profiled the influence of Podesta’s Center for American Progress in the formation of the Obama administration, stating that “not since the Heritage Foundation helped guide Ronald Reagan’s transition in 1981 has a single outside group held so much sway.”
CAP is funded by Soros’ Open Society.
Its board includes Van Jones, Obama’s former “green jobs” czar, who resigned in September 2009 after it was exposed he founded a communist revolutionary organization.
Another primary CAP funder is the Tides Foundation. Tides is also a primary funder to radical groups such as MoveOn.org, Media Matters for America and the now defunct Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN.
Meanwhile, in 2006, after she was accepted to the Rhodes Scholar program, Shankar was profiled as one of Glamour magazine’s “Top Ten College Women.” She told Glamour her most ambitious job would be to work as a science adviser to the American president.
Asked about her academic interests, Shankar told Glamour: “Cognitive science intrigued me quite a bit. And I also became involved in working for social justice. So instead of cognitive science and music, it became cognitive science and social activism.”
In 2006, Shankar described to the New Haven Register her coming of age as an activist: “Yale opened up for me a realization of the world of social justice. I had been to India before and witnessed poverty, but I never felt like an agent of change. At Yale, I saw a vibrant, activist community, and I wanted to be a part of it.”
USA Today called Shankar an “indefatigable champion of social justice, locally and globally.”
Perhaps Shankar’s drive to achieve social justice is motivating her current project of cultivating a “nudge” team.
Her document on the team describes possible methods of influencing Americans’ behavior.
On increasing adoption of energy efficient measures, Shankar noted “offering an attic-clearance service (at full cost) to people led to a five-fold increase in their subsequent adoption of attic-insulation. Interestingly, providing additional government subsidies on attic insulation services had no such effect.”
Regarding increasing tax compliance, Shankar reported “sending letters to late taxpayers that indicated a social norm – i.e., that ‘9 out of 10 people in Britain paid their taxes on time’ – resulted in a 15 percent increase in response rates over a three-month period, rolling out to £30 million of extra annual revenue.”
However, Michael Thomas, an economist at Utah State University, told FoxNews.com he is skeptical of a U.S. government team promoting nudge policies.
“Ultimately, nudging … assumes a small group of people in government know better about choices than the individuals making them,” he said.
And sometimes, he added, government actually promotes the wrong thing, FoxNews.com reported.
With research by Brenda J. Elliott