Jessica Boldt
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Jessica Boldt

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Review: Drunk Tank Pink by Adam Alter

Drunk Tank Pink is an immersive look into how the world around us constantly influences how we think and feel. We may think that our decisions are logical and divorced from bias, but this book pokes holes into such beliefs.

Author Adam Alter explores three worlds: the world within us, the world between us, and the world around us.

There are many factors we have no control over — such as name or skin color — and yet they affect how we live, where we live, and why we live, Alter says.

He thoughtfully examines some of these biases, such as the difference between “cuddly” names and “powerful” names in relation to how a phoneme rolls off the tongue in different languages. (If you want some food for thought for naming a baby, read this book.)

Part of this has to do with how we view the world through the use of labels, such as tying certain ZIP codes to higher crime. Because we are so mired in the complexity of the world, labeling allows us to quickly free up our minds to move on to the next thing.

But issues often arise when we don’t pause to evaluate our biases and decide if they are helpful or are hindering our growth. Alter puts it succinctly: “Categories resolve ambiguity,” and by resolving ambiguity we feel, perhaps mistakenly, that we can make pockets of the world safer. Alter offers many examples with incredible clarity and humor, including how the mere presence of others can change our behavior, how the color pink can soothe us, and how the weather can handicap us.

As a jumping-off point for examining our beliefs, thoughts, and actions, this book provides the proper equipment to take a deeper dive.


Jessica Boldt is committee and communications coordinator at AIA Dallas.