A Fake Pregnancy Experiment

pregnant womanHere'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.


Posted on Thu Sep 08, 2011


There's also the lack of evidence that moderate drinking contributes to fetal alcohol syndrome.
Posted by George P Burdell  on  Thu Sep 08, 2011  at  04:30 PM
Neither the photo nor the video actually made it clear 'what' she was drinking though so strangers may not have approached her since they'd also have to ask the question 'are you drinking alcohol?' before adding the next 'should you be drinking this while pregnant?'.

Perhaps they should have had her actually holding an obvious beer can or bottle to her lips instead of a glass filled with what could have been soda pop, koolaid of other yellow fluid. In this case she didn't appear to be slurring her words on the video which would support the idea that she was only drinking a soft drink.

A pregnant woman is also laden with odd female hormonal flushing adding alcohol could also be a dangerous combination to approach too. Also in this case she was accompanied only by another female (where's the father? might cross a stranger's mind) suggesting a volatile person.

People have learned to be more tolerant in public unless they see a 'clear and present danger' happening. For most of those at the fair this was to be a day of forgetting problems, not inviting another since even a pregnant woman is capable of attack, or throwing the drink in someone's face. Approaching her could easily equate to provocation.

Posted by hulitoons  on  Fri Sep 09, 2011  at  03:58 AM
Really though, is it anyone's business? Yes, if it was a friend or someone I knew relatively well I would have said something but a complete stranger? What business of mine could it possibly be?
I have been in a position where strangers and aquaintances have made moral judgements on actions I have taken and I'll tell you what - it pissed me off. What I do in my personal life is none of their concern.

As rule 1.1 points out, just because a woman looks pregnant, doesn't mean she is. As Huli pointed out, it wasn't even 100% clear what the woman was drinking. She wasn't doing something illegal, she wasn't beating a kid black and blue. As morally reprehensible that I find drinking while pregnant to be, I don't think it's up to me to be the one to confront a complete stranger about it. I'd rather leave that up to her doctor or her family.
Posted by Nettie  on  Fri Sep 09, 2011  at  09:49 AM
Yeah...I feel like I'm an unofficial expert on this b/c of my doula training...EVERYONE. EVERYONE. One more time...every. ONE. Will have a different opinion on what is appropriate for others during pregnancy. While I personally am in the "no data shows what amount is safe...therefore no amount is safe" camp...I fully understand those who have a different opinion about it. If someone asked my opinion, I would TELL HER why I felt alcohol during pregnancy wasn't a good idea.
Posted by Maegan  on  Sat Sep 10, 2011  at  06:05 AM
IF you were sure she was drinking alcohol
IF you were sure she was pregnant
IF you were sure that an unsolicited opinion would be taken graciously.

Posted by hulitoons  on  Sun Sep 11, 2011  at  08:22 AM
This is what Douglas Adams referred to as the "Someone Else's Problem" field, which in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was used to make a mountain invisible. It's someone else's problem, so you don't need to look at it.
Posted by Madfishmonger  on  Wed Sep 14, 2011  at  10:35 AM
Yeah, if I were to see her I'd probably figure it was just a cup of iced tea.
Posted by Accipiter  on  Wed Sep 14, 2011  at  05:30 PM
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