Drunk Pink Tank


Do you ever think about how colors affect mood, atmosphere and emotion?  For example, I feel empowered when I wear certain colors.  Even more surprising is the push and pull of my emotions when sitting in a meeting or teaching class to someone wearing green versus someone wearing blue.  Even when I was little, I was attracted to certain colors– the one I remember the most is this special pink candy striped jumper that I had to wear whenever I had doctor appointments.  The idea being this beautiful outfit would make the day go by faster.

Psychologists and color theorists have been researching the affects of colors for years: Blue is the most popular color in the world, black is associated with elegance, wealth, power, and strength, green soothes and calms, and red is the color of love, passion and romance.

Thus, begins the tale told in the book Drunk Pink Tank by Adam Alter.  University of Iowa’s famous football coach used this special color to his advantage and had the opposing team’s locker room painted “Drunk tank pink”.  To this day it remains that color as a testament to his legacy.  Bo Schembechler from Michigan allegedly used to cover the walls with newspaper to avoid the psychological effects of the soothing color on opposing football teams.

In the 1960s, the same color proved effective in calming disruptive students, violent prison inmates, and even took some of the spark out of rowdy football players. Multiple studies arrived at the same conclusion:

The color had systematic effects on human behavior. 


Alter delves deeper into this story and beyond, as he analyzes the way judgment, behavior, and decision-making intersects with behavioral economics and marketing. His research is fun to read and practical in application. When we discover what external forces are driving our actions we can then adjust to live happier, healthier, and more productive lives.

This book outlines three major categories of cues:

Those that make up the world within us (the cues that we process independently of other people);

The world between us (the cues that arise when we experience life in the presence of other people);

And the world around us (the cues that make up the physical world). When combined, these forces are a major factor in determining our well-being, wealth, health, and wisdom.  Alter’s work focuses on the intersection of marketing, behavioral economics, and the psychology of judgment and decision-making. The book has gotten national attention; even sparking the interest of Malcolm Gladwell who will be interviewing Alter in New York on March 27.  Needless to say, this book is a compelling look into the cues and forces that affect how humans think, feel, and act– many of which are unexpected cues!



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