on May 31, 2013
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.
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."
on March 28, 2013
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.
on April 13, 2013
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. If he does a good job of explaining experimental results or case studies and I still had reservations, I would have no problem investigating further. The fact of the matter is that he does not and I find too many instances where I need to further investigate what he proposes.
Nevertheless, the fact that I have the urge to investigate further the ideas set out in this book illustrates their overall level of interest. This is a decent book and makes for an interesting read. However, take the info with a grain of salt. I would give this book 5 stars if the author added an extra paragraph or so for many of his citations of evidence for full clarification. If you're interested in these kinds of ideas and like similar authors like Gladwell, Heath, Berger and Ariely you'll probably like this book or at least find it interesting, just don't expect it to be as good or insightful.
on July 13, 2013
The author tries the same approach as Malcom Gladwell - lots of anecdotal evidence to "bring home" his theories. He often cited studies that backed up his claims, but I found them to be way too small to be credible. While Gladwell (or any of the other writers in this vein) spend a chapter on a topic, this one pummels you with dozens of random facts with little connection.
on May 17, 2013
Drunk Tank Pink is a derivative attempt to explain human behaviors a la Freakonomics. It fails primarily because it uses single, poorly constructed, unvalidated experiments on mostly unwilling college freshman and sophomores to make great pronouncements about the human condition. The writing is dull and poisonishly repetitive. I was hoping for so much more which only increased my sense of disappointment.
I've easily read a dozen behavioral psychology books, and as such, many of the stories told within are ones that I have read about before. If, like me, you are fairly widely read on the subject, you might find the book not to have enough new material. If you are relatively new to reading about such topics, it is certainly a fun, approachable and interesting book. There are a number of different areas the author focuses on -- the impact of color on behavior, how weather effects moods and violence, optical illusions and cultural biases, how issues such as names not only reveal class and background but can often impact career and life choices, and many other such topics. Each chapter is fun, includes a number of examples, and is backed by a variety of research studies, including several conducted by the author along with Prof. Danny Oppenheimer (another interesting author, by the way...). It is a fast and fun read, and will give you a variety of interesting conversation points, as well as things to think about, especially how biases and contexts impact events. Some of the favorite sections for me were around color and athletics (i need to tell my daughters to wear red uniforms...), and weather and violence.
Good intro, fast and easy to read, with interesting observations. For me, even though I have read so many books on this subject, I still was glad that I read it and picked up some new ideas and observations. But then, I can never get enough on this topic...
on July 28, 2014
Whatever this universal slogan means (from clothing apparel, musical group, or anti breast cancer movement), it can be applied also to this delightful book by NYU Psychologyst Adam Alter. Basically cognitive psychology tells us that the content of our thoughts is important yes, but not as important as the way we live and perceive this content. Alter turns the question around and shows us with many examples, more or less scientific, how contexts, colors, images, (he calls them forces and divides them in those present the world inside us, in the world between us, and in the world around us) influence our actions. To say it more clearly actions in themselves, the content of our behavior, are influenced in such a way by external situations that we should ask ourselves if our decisions are really “ours”. Few examples for all: pink paint on walls sedates drunkards and criminals, summer months witness more revolutions and crimes due to greater aggressiveness, behaving like someone makes you actually believe you are that someone, situations of disfluency generate better concentration and results. But aside from these well known truths Alter puts together a plethora of information that barely escape quirkology, but that is very entertaining to read and he also romps through the recent story of psychology to extract characters and episodes that give strength to his message. We get to know Maslow’s hierarchy, Lorenz’s butterfly effect and many others.
The book has a solid scientific approach, even though methodology is not specifically addressed and some case studies are a little bit too stretched to demonstrate what is actually affirmed. Another observation that comes from reading is that the Author is young and he is lacking still a cultural context that could guarantee a wider credibility and many cross cultural ties. At one point he gives an interpretation of Christianity which is completely out of focus demonstrating he does not know the cultural basis on which our civilization is founded.
Every book has light and shadows, like every human being. This book is fun to read, instructive, gives a true outlook at what psychology is studying today and how our mind and actions are deeply influenced by contexts and frameworks. Only a word of caution, not all deductions are always true.
Anyway probably if we think pink, the world will go better and we will be happier, by reflex!
on June 10, 2013
"Invisible threads are the strongest ties." Nietzsche
How can wall decorations serve as anti-theft devices? Why does exposure to money (real or fake) increase pain tolerance and decrease feelings of empathy? Does watching a lightbulb illuminate actually increase a person's insight? In his new book, NYU professor and social psychologist Adam Alter reveals how our complex relationship with the environment -- both internal and external exerts a great deal of influence over how we think, feel, and behave. Our environment is overrun with words and images that influence our thinking and behavior in unexpected and mostly unconscious ways. Alter divides these influences (and the book) into three categories: the world within us, the world between us, and the world around us. With each section he offers up a non-stop narrative of anecdotes, facts, and research experiments that when taken together are a kind of quirky Rosetta Stone of human behavior. Alter's findings are compelling and he discusses many psychological constructs like disfluency, nominative determinism, diffusion of responsibility, and social facilitation, in an easy-to-read jargon free manner.
The biggest take away for this reviewer is that we are embedded in a complex dynamic relational web with all things (animate and inanimate) and the influence on our thoughts, feelings and actions that is exerted within that dialectic is at once conscious and unconscious. Drunk Tank Pink does a fantastic job of presenting credible evidence that exposes a sizeable crack in the idea that anyone anywhere is thinking, feeling, or behaving completely of their own free will.
on June 15, 2014
Drunk Tank Pink captures the essence of the many different, and sometimes surprising, forces in our world that influence us in our daily lives. It does so in a refreshingly clear and compelling way, where the reader forgets they are reading about research findings in the field of psychology and is merely entertained and intrigued by all that we have learned about how people think, behave, and feel. The author compiles a series of intriguing examples, from the impact of our children's name and the influence of how the dollar bill is designed, to how colors affect our behavior and the alarming power of culture. Regardless of your profession, interests, or history relating to social psychology, everyone will be able to relate to and learn from this book and will enjoy doing so with the ease and wit with which Alter skillfully writes about this subject matter. The different topics included are vast and eclectic and are certain to make you look at the world around you in a new, if not more transparent, way. It will be hard to resist the urge to share these fascinating and tangible anecdotes with friends! Drunk Tank Pink is a page turner and a great book for any reader interested in how we all are influenced, consciously and many times unconsciously, by our world around us.