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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2013 Adam Alter (P)2013 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"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)

What listeners say about Drunk Tank Pink

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Pop psychology, don't be ensnared!

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

If you want short, titbits of research strung together without a thread this is your thing. I expected something more impressive, deeper and guiding of future behaviour

What do you think your next listen will be?

I have already purchased and downloaded Brene Brown and will then move onto Quiet

What three words best describe Tristan Morris’s performance?

Average, adequate and simple

What character would you cut from Drunk Tank Pink?

Not a character to cut, more a thread to be added

6 people found this helpful

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Science?

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

A barrage of very brief summaries of "studies" that supposedly "prove" what the author is saying; or that take great liberties in drawing sweeping conclusions based on simplistic research. Basically, all sorts of things may influence our thoughts, opinions, or behavior. For example: showing images test subjects brief images of their country's flag, so quickly that they don't even know they're seeing it, and then saying that influenced how they vote?? Ah, don't you think the country's flag is a very commonly encountered visual element during a national election? This and whole deluge of other study results are not examined critically but just relayed and relayed endlessly, leaving the book with only the murkiest organization and the slightest structure.

3 people found this helpful

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Amazing insights.

Would you listen to Drunk Tank Pink again? Why?

Yes, I would. There is so much here.
People are just amazing.
This is a fine book for nonfiction readers learning what motivates human behavior.

1 person found this helpful

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Fascinating!

Any additional comments?

The subject of this book is one that I myself (!) have considered writing a book on. I'm glad I didn't even try - this is great, and fascinating. And the red thread is easily discernible through all the otherwise quite unrelated phenomena.
There's lots to be learned about oneself, others and the world, from this book.

3 people found this helpful

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interesting data and we'll written

I read a lot of books like this and was happy that this one had unique data i had not heard in other books. well written and intriguing!

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really enjoyed the book!

the book was excellent in explaining social priming in comprehensive story telling! it was like rediscovering a favorite class room subject again!

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New lenses to look at the world

This book has nuggets of peer-reviewed and research supported wisdom. It has clues about our choices in life and mostly how things on an unconscious level have control over our decisions and experiences. However, now we know and applying some of these, such as spending more time in nature and being more alert in terms of colour, seasons and hight to live on, should make our lives easier and more efficient.

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To scientific

I love me some self help books but this book was a little to scientific for my liking. I understood his theory however.

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Great book!

This is a book with great insights and an easy read because it is so interesting.

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data driven discoveries

Delightful listen of some new and unexpected factoids about human behavior. Super narration too.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 01-18-22

Ok but there’s better books covering same topics

Was interesting enough, but it was just a compilation of science and studies that are better and more accurately discussed in other books. Nothing revelationary or too deep- just lots of ‘interesting facts’