Pretty in Pink: How Our Environment Shapes How We Think

We are profoundly influenced by our surroundings in many ways that psychologists are now starting to fully understand. 

Warm sunny days make us optimistic, but also impatient and aggressive. As a result, both financial markets and crime go up when the sun is out. When a room is dimly lit, we are more inclined to act dishonestly. On the other hand, we tend to behave ourselves when exposed to blue light, which we might associate with the police.


These are just a few of the ways that we are influenced by our surroundings -- often profoundly so -- that the marketing psychologist Adam Alter explores in his fascinating new book Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces that Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave

In the video below, Alter shares the illuminating story behind the book's title. A method of prison discipline involved putting an aggressive inmate in the so-called drunk tank. Psychologists in the 1980s experimented with a number of different colors to see which ones might most effectively pacify the meanest inmates on the cell block. The clear winner? A bubblegum-pink color. Hence, Drunk Tank Pink. Fairly soon football coaches began applying this color scheme to their opponents locker rooms. Pink would make the opposing team more passive while red would make them more aggressive. 

So what exactly is it about colors and other subtle cues in our environment that triggers these repsonces?

Watch the video here:

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why is 18 the age of adulthood if the brain can take 30 years to mature?

Neuroscience research suggests it might be time to rethink our ideas about when exactly a child becomes an adult.

Mind & Brain
  • Research suggests that most human brains take about 25 years to develop, though these rates can vary among men and women, and among individuals.
  • Although the human brain matures in size during adolescence, important developments within the prefrontal cortex and other regions still take pace well into one's 20s.
  • The findings raise complex ethical questions about the way our criminal justice systems punishes criminals in their late teens and early 20s.
Keep reading Show less

Apparently even NASA is wrong about which planet is closest to Earth

Three scientists publish a paper proving that Mercury, not Venus, is the closest planet to Earth.

Strange Maps
  • Earth is the third planet from the Sun, so our closest neighbor must be planet two or four, right?
  • Wrong! Neither Venus nor Mars is the right answer.
  • Three scientists ran the numbers. In this YouTube video, one of them explains why our nearest neighbor is... Mercury!
Keep reading Show less

Mini-brains attach to spinal cord and twitch muscles

A new method of growing mini-brains produces some startling results.

(Lancaster, et al)
Surprising Science
  • Researchers find a new and inexpensive way to keep organoids growing for a year.
  • Axons from the study's organoids attached themselves to embryonic mouse spinal cord cells.
  • The mini-brains took control of muscles connected to the spinal cords.
Keep reading Show less