You think you have your own mind? Your own thoughts and beliefs? You’re in for a surprise.
In his new book Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces that Shape How We Think, Feel and Behave, NYU psychology professor Adam Alter delves into the elements of everyday life that affect our behaviors without our knowledge. The title refers to the soothing effects of the color pink, which became a popular shade for prison holding cells once its calming powers were discovered.
That’s hardly the weirdest thing social scientists have figured out, however.
Here are seven ways you can trick your brain into not sabotaging you at every turn:
1) Look at a light bulb to be smarter: Light bulbs, you see, are symbols of ingenuity and invention. Look at a picture of one while taking a test, and you’ll perform better. I plan to stare at a dollar sign every payday to see if this process has other applications.
2) Don’t make your website red: Apparently, slow-loading websites with red or yellow backgrounds make people angrier and more impatient than, say, websites with blue or green backgrounds. This fact does little to explain why I am filled with rage at every slow-loading website, regardless of color.
3) Improve your grades by taking a test in your pajamas: A study revealed that information is easier to recall if you can closely replicate the circumstances in which you learned it. If you studied for a test while wearing your most disgusting sweatpants, for example, taking the test in said sweatpants would theoretically result in a better score.
4) Take a family photo to the dentist: Photos of loved ones actually dull pain, activating reward centers in your pain and creating a sense of safety and well-being. I assume this is the same reason looking at funny cat pictures on the internet makes it less painful to be at work.
5) First date? Skip the iced coffee: You know what they say: warm hands beverage, warm heart. In observed trials, subjects were made to hold hot or iced coffees and then asked to evaluate the personality of a stranger. People who’d been holding hot drinks invariably described the stranger in warmer, friendlier terms.
6) Work on your novel when it’s raining: Memory experiments reveal that people have better recall and problem-solving abilities on rainy days versus sunny ones, the theory being that gloomy weather dampens our moods and invites deeper thinking and introspection. And now you have hard evidence that HR must institute Summer Fridays. You’re welcome.
7) Ignore Daylight Savings Time: Research reveals that turning back the clocks every year results in more than a bunch of lame Facebook status updates—it also makes you dumber. Not only are there more car accidents on the first day of DST (since we’ve all just lost an hour of sleep), but research suggests that changing the clocks puts our bodies “out of phase” with their natural biorhythms. In Indiana, where only some counties recognize DST, students under the influence of DST scored an average 16 points lower on their SATs. I am going to go ahead and assume this is why I didn’t get into Harvard.
Do you trust your own mind? Let us know in the comments.