A group of drama students at University College Cork (UCC) recently conducted a social experiment to see how two seemingly drunk girls would be treated around campus. A similar experiment in America was considered disastrous as men lined up to try to bring the women home with them.
No such thing happened in Ireland, however. The drunk women found that the young Irish men they encountered reacted with consideration and concern and tried to return them to their friends and family.
"We were pleasantly surprised with most reactions especially the group of guys outside the library who showed a lot of concern for the girl & even asked her if she wanted them to contact her friends or family,” one of the women involved in the experiment wrote on the ‘Spotted in UCC’ Facebook.
"Faith in humanity restored!"
The experiment, which was conducted by a second year Drama and Theatre Studies class at the university, was inspired by French actor and theatre director Antonin Artaud's theory of Theatre Cruelty.
"The intention is to make the audience think, and [make them] slightly uncomfortable," Katie Murphy, one of the students involved in the experiment, told the Irish Examiner.
"There was six of us in the group," says Murphy. "Two of us played the 'drunk' girls and the others were observers, watching reactions.
"For example when one girl was acting drunk outside the library, after a while I approached the group of guys she was talking to and asked did they know her, engaging in conversation and observing their reactions.
"A few more from the group came over and we all spoke to different people asking them questions about the 'drunk' girl.
"Another girl in our group filmed it and one of the guys turned around and gave out to her for filming, which was quite comforting!"
The two girls participating in the experiment deliberately chose a different look from one another, and the group noticed that appearances did affect the amount of help each girl received.
"We wanted to see if the public would react differently to a not-so-well-dressed drunk and a well-dressed drunk," said Murphy.
"One girl wore a long black coat, hair tied up, no makeup, a very casual look. She also came out from the library when she started acting drunk and it was interesting to see that people immediately labelled her as academic and were quite concerned about her because apparently she 'didn't look like the type to get drunk.’
"Another guy also came to the conclusion that 'study week must have gotten to her.’
"In contrast to this when I walked into the Main Rest 'drunk,' I was dressed more formally. I went for a louder more outgoing giggly drunk and the reaction in the main rest was different to the reaction the other girl got.
"People weren't as concerned about me, despite the fact that I was stumbling and asking for water."
Murphy said that despite their reluctance to help, people did actually eventually help her, although some people "were clearly irritated and had no time for me.”
"In general the reaction was still positive," she says. "However, overall people were a lot less concerned about me and the reaction (despite the fact that most did help me) was in general [people] laughing at me and seeing the funny side to it rather than concern."
Murphy pointed out that this was not a gender experiment.
"We talked to all people, male and female, and different nationalities. I just happened to mention the guys' responses on the Spotted in UCC post.
"Some people seem to be under the impression it was a gender experiment and we want to emphasize it was not. We simply wanted to see people's reactions to alcohol intake during the day and see if there was a difference between how people react to appearance."
She says they chose to remain on campus for the experiment to maintain a controlled environment.
"The experiment was deliberately carried out on campus for safety reasons. We also had several people monitoring it. It was very much controlled."
In response to the public’s reaction to the experiment, she told the Irish Examiner: "Though it's great the public are reacting, this was an academic experiment carried out for a reflective essay, highly influenced by Augusto Boal's 'Invisible Theatre.”’