Here's a slightly different spin on the old fake pregnancy prank. (Reality Rule 1.1 in Hippo Eats Dwarf
is "Just because a woman looks pregnant, it doesn't mean she is."
As a social experiment, the Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol made one of their operatives appear to be pregnant. Then they sent her to the state fair and had her stand around in full view drinking beer
. They wanted to see if anyone would say something to her about how she shouldn't drink alcohol while pregnant. They even had the woman approach strangers with her beer in hand and ask them to take photos of her drinking.
The result: No one said anything negative to her. In fact, a few people congratulated her for drinking while pregnant.
They concluded that the "Minnesota Nice" thing may have undermined their experiment.
Or perhaps the woman should have stood around doing vodka shots. That might have produced more of a reaction. Though this is the third time they've run the experiment (once at last year's state fair and once in a downtown bar), and the other times they did get a few negative remarks.
However, from the perspective of social psychology, I'd say that the non-response is most likely a manifestation of the Unresponsive Bystander Effect
. In situations involving large crowds, people are very reluctant to step forward and offer help (or criticism). There's the natural tendency to assume that it's someone else's responsibility. The non-response also becomes self-perpetuating. People take their cues from those around them. So if no one reacts to a situation, everyone assumes it's because there's no problem.