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Drunk Tank Pink by Adam Alter

This article was inspired by Adam Alter's Drunk Tank Pink . If you enjoy this article then consider purchasing or borrowing the book.

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How to Recognize Forces of Influence

“Like chameleons we blend into the background, unconsciously adopting the behaviors that strike a balance between appropriate and rewarding.”

Officials had the holding cells at the US Naval Correctional Center painted pink after a study demonstrated that the color reduced aggression. As expected, prisoners with histories of violence calmed down in these cells, and jails all of the country adopted the color of “drunk tank pink.” Further investigation revealed that three types of “cues” affect people subliminally. Mental, social and environmental cues influence your decisions on a daily basis.

A person’s name has more of an effect on their lives than you might guess. Your name can indicate your ethnic heritage, socioeconomic status and even when you were born (as time passes, a name can experience a rise and fall in popularity). One study demonstrated that employers were more likely to hire people with Caucasian names than those with African-American names. People with simple, easily pronounced names often achieve more success also.

Labels also have an effect on the objects they represent. For example, the term “disabled” can affect the way others treat a person. Symbols cause a similar effect. People react to symbols quickly and often emotionally. Just consider a person’s response to seeing a swastika versus a peace sign.

Socially, people are immensely affected by the behavior of others. In the 1890s, Norman Triplett demonstrated that the “social facilitation effect” determined the performance of most athletes. When a crowd was present, the athletes usually performed better. If there where so many onlookers that the competitor felt anxious, then performance suffered.

According to psychologist Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs,” peoples’ actions ultimately boil down to the need for “air, food, water and sexual reproduction.” It has been demonstrated that “men are more likely to die accidentally because they take greater risks to impress women.”

Unconsciously, people distrust those outside the norms of their groups, since they fear threats to safety. It has also been demonstrated that in peoples’ minds, love deadens pain or the memories of painful occurrences.

Marketers recognize that a person’s culture determines his or her values, anxieties and desires. Humans instinctively imitate those around them. In the US, individuality is stressed, while countries in East Asia desire conformity in people. Advertisements target consumers based on their cultural norms.

Your environment, from color hues to pollution, affects your behavior. Research has shown that children living in louder environments develop slower intellectually than those from quieter areas. Nature has a positive effect on people. In hospitals, patients who could see trees outside recovered more quickly than those without a view. Even the weather affects behavior. Romance usually blossoms during cold winter weather, and violence has been linked to hot temperatures.

By being aware of the influences your surroundings have upon you and others, you can better prepare yourself for making good decisions and influencing those of others.


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