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

Adam Alter. Penguin Press, $25.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-594204-54-8
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.)
Reviewed on: 01/07/2013
Release date: 03/21/2013
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-986-175-329-4
Paperback - 261 pages - 978-1-78074-264-9
Open Ebook - 272 pages - 978-1-101-60578-3
Ebook - 366 pages - 978-1-78074-265-6
Paperback - 261 pages - 978-0-14-312493-1
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