Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces that Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave

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Overview

An illuminating look at the way the thoughts we have and the decisions we make are influenced by forces that aren't always in our control

Why are people named Kim, Kelly, and Ken more likely to donate to Hurricane Katrina victims than to Hurricane Rita victims? Are you really more likely to solve puzzles if you watch a light bulb illuminate? How did installing blue lights along a Japanese railway line halt rising crime and suicide rates? Can decorating your walls with the right ...

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Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces That Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave

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Overview

An illuminating look at the way the thoughts we have and the decisions we make are influenced by forces that aren't always in our control

Why are people named Kim, Kelly, and Ken more likely to donate to Hurricane Katrina victims than to Hurricane Rita victims? Are you really more likely to solve puzzles if you watch a light bulb illuminate? How did installing blue lights along a Japanese railway line halt rising crime and suicide rates? Can decorating your walls with the right artwork make you more honest? The human brain is fantastically complex, having engineered space travel and liberated nuclear energy, so it's no wonder that we resist the idea that we're deeply influenced by our surroundings. As profound as they are, these effects are almost impossible to detect both as they're occurring and in hindsight. Drunk Tank Pink is the first detailed exploration of how our environment shapes what we think, how we feel, and the ways we behave.

The world is populated with words and images that prompt unexpected, unconscious decisions. We are so deeply attracted to our own initials that we give more willingly to the victims of hurricanes that match our initials: Kims and Kens donate more generously to Hurricane Katrina victims, whereas Rons and Rachels give more openly to Hurricane Rita victims. Meanwhile, an illuminated light bulb inspires creative thinking because it symbolizes insight.

Social interactions have similar effects, as professional cyclists pedal faster when people are watching. Teachers who took tea from the break room at Newcastle University contributed 300 percent more to a cash box when a picture of two eyes hung on the wall. We're evolutionarily sensitive to human surveillance, so we behave more virtuously even if we're only watched by a photograph. The physical environment, from locations to colors, also guides our hand in unseen ways. Dimly lit interiors metaphorically imply no one's watching and encourage dishonesty and theft, while blue lights discourage violent activity because they're associated with the police. Olympic taekwondo and judo athletes are more likely to win when they wear red rather than blue, because red makes them behave aggressively and referees see them as more dominant. Drunk Tank Pink is full of revelatory facts, riveting anecdotes, and cutting-edge experiments that collectively explain how the most unexpected factors lead us to think, feel, and behave the way we do.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

We are, in several senses, curious creatures. Popular NYU psychology and marketing professor Adam Alter has applied his own inquisitiveness to compose a fascinating tome about the hidden things that make us think, act, and feel the way we do. The debut result will please readers of Malcolm Gladwell and other writers about unexpected wonders. Editor's recommendation.

Publishers Weekly
Quick: think of a light bulb. Inspired by the titular pink of the book—a hue believed to reduce physical violence—Alter explores a range of subtle, immaterial factors that can produce very real changes in behavior, mood, and even intelligence. The author’s examples are diverse: from direct environmental cues such as colored light or visual symbols like light bulbs (found to aid the solving of insight-based exercises) to more complex phenomena like built environments, labels, and social isolation. Alter, a social psychologist and professor at NYU, not only explains the source of many cognitive quirks, but convincingly argues that comprehending them affords a better understanding of broader behaviors, from cyclical poverty to altruism. Some of these experiments will be familiar to readers—a chapter on naming builds on research explained in Freakonomics, and his discussion of groupthink begins with a recounting of the Kitty Genovese murder. But in Alter’s hands, these case studies take on new life—the famous “two line” optical illusion opens into a fascinating explication of the perceptual effects of living in “geometric interiors.” Alter fluently moves between psychology, medicine, and cultural history, offering surprises to readers at many levels of expertise. Agent: Katinka Matson, Brockman, Inc. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
Advance Praise for Drunk Tank Pink:

 "Alter not only explains the source of many cognitive quirks, but convincingly argues that comprehending them affords a better understanding of broader behaviors, from cyclical poverty to altruism... In Alter's hands, case studies take on new life... fluently moves between psychology, medicine, and cultural history, offering surprises to readers at many levels of expertise."
Publishers Weekly
\
"Solid, down-to-earth insights into why we think, feel and act the way we do."
Kirkus

"In this fascinating book, Adam Alter tells us about the forces that shape our thoughts and actions. More than you would ever imagine, your life is influenced by factors such as the first letter of your name, the average climate of our country, and whether you are in the presence of the color pink. With remarkable clarity and subversive humor, Alter presents a radical new perspective on human nature."
—Paul Bloom, author of How Pleasure Works
 
"Adam Alter has collected the most wonderfully strange and surprising nuggets of recent psychological research in one book. I guarantee you'll be want to share the incredible anecdotes in Drunk Tank Pink with friends."
—Joshua Foer, New York Times bestselling author of Moonwalking with Einstein
 
"Drunk Tank Pink is a smart and delightful introduction to some of psychology’s most curious phenomena and most colorful characters."
—Daniel Gilbert, New York Times bestselling author of Stumbling on Happiness
                                                                                                                              
"Reading Adam Alter's book will change the way you look at our world. Seemingly banal things will begin to mean more than you ever realized."
—Dan Ariely, New York Times bestselling author of Predictably Irrational
 
"You'll laugh, you'll gasp, you'll shake your head in disbelief as Alter shows you that we are all, to some degree, balls in a giant pinball machine. If you want to see the bumpers—and regain some control of your destiny—read this delightful book."
—Jonathan Haidt, Author of The Righteous Mind
 
"A fascinating compendium of the hidden currents that influence our thoughts, beliefs, and actions."
—Gary Marcus, New York Times bestselling author of Guitar Zero

Joshua Foer
Adam Alter has collected the most wonderfully strange and surprising nuggets of recent psychological research in one book. I guarantee you'll be want to share the incredible anecdotes in Drunk Tank Pink with friends.—Joshua Foer, New York Times bestselling author of Moonwalking with Einstein
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594204548
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/21/2013
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 573,670
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.16 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Adam Alter

Adam Alter is an assistant professor in the marketing department at the Stern School of Business, New York University, with an affiliated appointment in the NYU psychology department. A native of Australia, Alter earned his Ph.D. in social psychology at Princeton University in 2004, focusing on how people reach the judgments and make the decisions that shape their lives. He has lectured at numerous institutions including Harvard, Yale, MIT, Stanford, Cornell, and the University of Chicago. Alter is a guest blogger on the Psychology Today website.

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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2013

    Diana

    Yay:)

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