How design colors the mind

But it seems to have "magical" powers.

In 1979, psychologists discovered that painting prison cells with "drunk tank pink" calmed down even the rowdiest inmates. It worked in classrooms, too. Research has confirmed this sedating effect.

Alter recalled a study in which 153 "young, healthy men" were shown pieces of pink cardboard, rather than blue cardboard. "One-hundred-and-fifty-one out of the 153, almost all of them, were significantly weaker when they gripped a hand grip measure which measures how strongly you grip," he said.

Word spread quickly . . . to the world of college football.

"Even to this day, the University of Iowa's Kinnick Stadium still has the visiting locker room painted in bright pink, with porcelain bright pink urinals and lockers," Alter said. "The thought was that at half-time or before the game, when the visitors arrived, they would be calmed and weakened by the color."

pink locker room,
The visiting team's locker room at the University of Iowa's Kinnick Stadium, in Iowa City. CBS News

But why does it work?

"Some of the researchers believe that it's biological in origin -- that there's something about the way this color interacts with our eyes and with our brains and with our physiology to weaken us," said Alter. "I think another alternative is that it's just based on the association. Perhaps if you're a strong, healthy male, it makes you think of, perhaps, femininity."

So next time you remodel, you might want to re-think pink . . . reconsider that picture . . . reinstate that tree in the kitchen.

And remember: What's on your walls could decide what's on your mind.


Editor's Note: Wondering what the University of Iowa's home-game record is before and after painting the visiting team's locker room pink? According to a team spokesperson, for the nine years before the paint job at Kinnick Stadium, the Hawkeyes' record at home was 18 wins, 32 losses, 1 tie.

In the 35 years since, their home-game record was 142 wins, 65 losses.

Think pink!

Web extra: Read an extended interview with psychoanalyst-photographer Mark Gerald about the evolution of the analyst's office

Photos: Inside the analyst's office


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