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Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces That Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave Paperback – February 25, 2014

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (February 25, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143124935
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143124931
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,822 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

It’s commonly known that a lot of police departments and detention centers use a certain shade of pink in their cells because the color is believed to have a calming effect. But the color pink isn’t the only thing that affects how we behave; there are dozens of factors that influence our thoughts and beliefs. Consider the compass, for example: the earth’s surface is horizontal, and there’s no need for north to be above south, but the association of north with up and south with down has some very interesting repercussions (such as people’s tendency to prefer to travel south rather than north to go to a store, because north is uphill). Or consider this: people with names that begin with the letter K were responsible for 10 percent of donations for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, but for only 4 percent of donations “to all disasters before Katrina.” An intelligent, often surprising exploration of the way cues of all varieties (sounds, colors, images, symbols, and more) shape the people we are, for better or worse. --David Pitt --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"Adam Alter's book will change the way you look at our world."
--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 New York Times bestseller, The Righteous Mind

"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... as he fluently moves between psychology, medicine, and cultural history, offering surprises to readers at many levels of expertise."
--Publishers Weekly

"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 about the many ways our perceptions are affected is so compelling that it put me in a seriously suspicious frame of mind...he seems to realize that his material does not require much to make it fascinating--not even a fancy font."
--The Smithsonian (a "Notable Book")

"Popular NYU psychology and marketing professor Adam Alter has composed 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."
--Barnes & Noble (A "Book of the Month" and "Editor's Recommendation" book)

"Alter's findings are intriguing...he peppers his text with illustrative anecdotes, incidents, studies and characters, making the book highly readable and informative."
--Kirkus Reviews (A Kirkus Recommended book)

More About the Author

Adam Alter's book is titled Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces That Shape Our Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors. Alter is an Assistant Professor of Marketing and Psychology at NYU's Stern School of Business and Psychology Department. His research focuses on the intersection of behavioral economics, marketing, and the psychology of judgment and decision-making. His work has been widely published in academia--including in The Journal of Experimental Psychology and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences--and has been featured in the mainstream media, on PBS and BBC, and in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Economist. Alter has also written for Psychology Today, The Atlantic, and the Huffington Post, among other publications.

Alter received his B.Sc in Psychology from the University of New South Wales, where he won the University Medal in Psychology, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Psychology from Princeton, where he held a Fellowship in the Woodrow Wilson Society of Scholars.

Customer Reviews

Very interesting book and very well written.
John Western
In his book _Drunk Tank Pink_, Adam Alter uncovers the hidden and unexpected forces influencing how we think, behave and act.
Read it as an audio book, great audio if you're into that!!

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Amelia Gremelspacher TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 21, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
According to this book, that may be case, but not so much for people. Alter presents research revealing that names will prompt assumptions of wealth, intelligence, age, and race. Even having a name difficult to spell may evoke more negative affect. These data are only one aspect of this book which explores the effect of color, race, status cues, symbols, and even locations and warmth on human behavior.

This book does not stop with anecdotal or statistical evidence. The author cites experiments, many ingenuous, to test the theories of influence. Some studies are classic such as the one in which a teacher declared eye color to best and found social changes in the children. The children with the preferred eye color started acting superior and in fact performed better on tests. Then switching the announcement of preferred eye color switched behavior to its opposite. Other experiments are more obscure such as the finding that champion chess players will play a riskier game against very attractive, female experts than they would play against similarly matched men.

Whether familiar or esoteric, the research in this book are fascinating and well assembled as well as compelling. The prose is clear and entertaining. This is a book for learning more about the human condition. I believe the information in this book can be useful, and the reading is a pleasure. And if you are planning to have a room with potentially violent people in it, paint it Drunk Tank Pink, a "non-drug anesthetic."
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Kyle Hugall on March 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is absolutely packed with incredible insights and ideas relating to the way certain forces that surround us affect the way we think and behave. The examples put forward are truly awe-inspiring and surprising, resulting in a hugely entertaining and thought-provoking read.

Through a lens of robust scientific research, Alter explores a fascinating array of topics and stories from across the globe. Whether his subject is a nasal spray that claims to enhance human relationships, or the flow of time as interpreted by an Australian Pormpuraaw Aborigine, or even the pain-anesthetizing properties of money, Alter delivers his findings in a compelling and engaging way.

The clarity of Alter's writing, the sharpness of his insights and the sheer kaleidoscopic breadth of the stories he explores makes for a gripping read that will change the way you think about the world around you and its effect on your life.

Funny, weird, surprising, provocative, shocking and downright disturbing, Drunk Tank Pink is a must-read for anyone who has even the faintest interest in the riddles of life and what decoding them could mean for the future of humanity.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Huck DeVenzio on May 31, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I like to learn about why we behave as we do, especially when the influences are unexpected. After seeing a positive review in a respected magine and testimonials from people whose writings I admire, I eagerly ordered Drunk Tank Pink.

But I was disappointed. To me it is a string of interesting research results presented as unquestioned explanations. While there is thorough footnoting, the author offers little discussion of conflicting research, alternative possibilities, or cause vs. correlation. It's anecdotalism with a scientific underpinning. I would have liked more details or less certainty, including something to substantiate the research that provided the book's title. Surely there must be another side to the research suggesting that the presence of a yin-yang symbol on a questionnaire led white American students to adopt "thought patterns more typical among Chinese people" when predicting the weather. And the attribution of "subliminal priming" to differences in attitudes seems a throw-back to discredited marketing tales.

I liked the studies described, but would have appreciated a more skeptical or more complete presentation of them.
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful By ReaganH on April 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book delves into the psychological forces that make us think and behave counter to rational economic thinking, or behavioral economics. Does a certain hue of pink make people less aggressive? Do names cause us to give more or contribute to moral or professional preferences? How can certain symbols, the environment around us and other people subconsciously influence behavior? These, and more, are the highly interesting questions this book seeks to shed light on.

The author presents these ideas in layman's terms with mastery and great insight. He causes you to think outside the box for both simple and complex decision making processes and presents easy to read experimental evidence to back the book's claims.

Herein, however, lies my main problem with this book. The author does not do a good job of fully explaining experimental methodology, the statistical significance or some results and how one small scale experiment may not apply to a population as a whole. He does not accurately explain experiments in terms of potential variables not controlled for in experiments, whether results are applicable over time or to an entire population and mitigating potential criticisms of experimental results or ideas by providing common critiques and rebutting them. For these reasons, some of the ideas leave lingering doubt in my mind and compel me to research the referenced experiments. I should not have this urge because I paid for the book. It is the author's job to clearly state the results and why his interpretation is correct rather than misleading or wrong. In my opinion he does not do a good enough job of this compared to similar books I have read. There are simply too many instances where I question his interpretation.
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