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Adam Alter: Drunk Tank Pink: The subconscious forces that shape how we think, feel and behave


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‘Drunk Tank Pink’ is a very particular shade. In 1979 psychologists discovered that it has an extraordinary effect: if you stare at it for two minutes, you dramatically weaken in strength.

In a brilliant new study of the strange recesses of our minds, Adam Alter, professor of marketing and psychology at NYU, reveals the world is full of such hidden forces that shape our every thought, feeling and behaviour, without us ever realising. Some letters in product names make us more likely to buy them (nearly all successful brands contain a ‘k’ sound). We are more likely to be critical if we write in red rather than green. Our first school report can determine our future careers. Understanding these cues, Alter argues, is key to smarter decision-making, more effective marketing, and better outcomes for ourselves and society.


We love exploring ideas at the Wheeler Centre, and encouraging others to do the same. That’s why every Thursday lunchtime we hand the microphone over to the great thinkers, dreamers and orators of our time.

With a dazzling range of passionate speakers and unusual topics, our soapbox provides a platform for the eclectic, topical and enlightening stories you won’t hear elsewhere. This is the most memorable lunch break you’ll have all week.

If you’re in need of sustenance of body as well as mind, the MOAT lunch cart will be serving delicious $10 lunchboxes in the performance space from 12.20pm.



Adam Alter

Adam Alter is marketing professor at New York University.

His research focuses on decision making and social psychology, and has been published in leading psychology journals and featured in popular media across the world.


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