Adam Alter

The smallest environmental cues can drastically affect the choices you make.

New York Times Bestselling Author of Drunk Tank Pink

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Adam Alter | New York Times Bestselling Author of Drunk Tank Pink
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

Adam Alter studies how we think and decide—and how consumers spend and save, doctors diagnose, judges punish, and investors invest. In the New York Times bestseller, Drunk Tank Pink, Alter shows us that so many of those thoughts and decisions are deeply influenced by forces that escape our attention and elude our control. 

“You'll laugh, you'll gasp, you'll shake your head in disbelief as Alter shows you that we are all, to some degree, balls in a giant pinball machine. If you want to see the bumpers—and regain some control of your destiny—read this delightful book.”

— Jonathan Haidt, New York Times bestselling author of The Righteous

Adam Alter is the author of the New York Times bestseller Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces That Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave, which examines how features of the world shape our thoughts and feelings beyond our control. And next year, he launches Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, which has been described as "an urgent and expert investigation into behavioral addiction, the dark flipside of today’s unavoidable digital technologies, and how we can turn the tide to regain control."


He has also written for the New York Times, New Yorker, Atlantic, WIRED, Slate, Huffington Post, and Popular Science, among other publications. Alter has shared his ideas at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, and with dozens of companies, including Google, Microsoft, Anheuser Busch, Prudential, and Fidelity, and with design and ad agencies around the world. He is working on his second book, which asks why so many people today are addicted to so many behaviors, from incessant smart phone and internet usage to video game playing and online shopping.


Alter is an Associate Professor of Marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business, with an affiliated appointment in the New York University Psychology Department. His academic research focuses on judgment and decision-making and social psychology, with a particular interest in the sometimes surprising effects of subtle cues in the environment on human cognition and behavior. His research has been published widely in academic journals, and featured in dozens of TV, radio, and print outlets around the world.

Alter received his Bachelor of Science (Honors Class 1, University Medal) in Psychology from the University of New South Wales and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Psychology from Princeton University, where he held the Charlotte Elizabeth Procter Honorific Dissertation Fellowship and a Fellowship in the Woodrow Wilson Society of Scholars.   

Speech Topics

Behavioural Economics
Drunk Tank Pink The Unexpected Forces That Shape Our Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors

How do even the smallest environmental cues affect our behavior? How does the world around us—the weather, colors, geography and location—affect our moods and social interactions? Adam Alter offers a groundbreaking look into the complex relationship between environmental features and our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Humans respond emotionally, physically, and mentally to the shifting world around them. The names we assign, the language we use, and the symbols and images we deploy all affect how we behave as well. Alter examines it all, delivering a fascinating overview of why we do what we do. He breaks down our cognitive responses to external influences, showing the effects that are driven by small cues. How are these cues cognitively processed? Where do they reside in our consciousness? Alter offers thoughts on how leaders, policymakers, and smarter organizations can change conditions, and create more cognitively healthy environments—and healthier human beings.

How Customers Think Three Paths to Understanding Your Customers

In this talk, Adam Alter explores how businesses can better understand and predict the behavior of their customers. He begins by explaining why we often misunderstand how customers think, and then goes on to describe how they actually make purchasing decisions. How do they decide whether a new product will be valuable? How do they choose among a set of brands? How can companies present choices and options to maximize the appeal of their products? Having explained the features of consumer psychology, Alter presents a series of interventions that enable companies to communicate with customers more effectively and compellingly.

Business Strategy
Irresistible vs. Forgettable Why Are Some Products, Services, Websites, Apps, and Ideas Irresistible, While Many Others Are Forgettable?

Why do people return to some ideas, products, experiences, and brands over and over again, while others fade from memory and interest almost immediately? In his forthcoming book on behavioral addiction, Adam Alter investigates what separates the irresistible from the forgettable. The answers draw from a broad range of case studies and research—from as far afield as the world of video game design and television script writing to app design and digital advertising. The answers apply broadly to all forms of business, from online and digital product development to consumer sales, packaged goods, services, politics, medicine, and law. Why, for example, did Instagram succeed while Hipstamatic, a very similar earlier app, failed? Why do people play the lottery despite losing time and again and facing impossibly long odds? Should you release upbeat products when the economy is thriving or when times are tough? Alter answers these questions and more in a keynote that explains the sharp divide between the instant sensation and the forgotten disaster.

Behavioural Economics
Sales on Steroids Going Beyond Ho-Hum Sales with the Help of Human Psychology

What really goes on inside the mind of a potential consumer? Why do people buy and engage with some products, services, and ideas, while they overlook others? Drawing on his best-selling book, Drunk Tank Pink, as well as the science of behavioral economics and human decision-making, Adam Alter exposes the roots of consumer behavior. Why does the color of a product and its brand logo shape sales? Why does a product’s name sometimes make the difference between success and failure? Why should you open a new sales relationship with some words and sentences while avoiding others at all costs? And how does the layout of a website (or a retail space) drive or stifle sales? These are the questions all savvy marketers and designers need to answer when searching for success.