Michele Gelfand On How Tight And Loose Cultures Adhere (Or Don't) To Norms

Oct 18, 2019

This interview originally aired in February, 2019.

The dividing line along human behavior and cultures is often blurry and little understood. Why are trains in Japan and Germany far less delayed than those in the United States and Brazil? Why are some company cultures, like Uber and United, prone to PR nightmares while others seem more calibrated? Why is the celebration of an Olympic athlete correlated to whether they’re from China, Australia, or the UK? 

  

In her book, Rule Makers, Rule Breakers, noted cultural psychologist Michele Gelfand takes readers on a wild and enlightening journey through human cultures, offering a fresh view of the world and ourselves. With a mix of empirical data and surprising on-the-ground discoveries, she shows that much of the diversity in the way we think and act derives from a key difference—how tightly or loosely we adhere to social norms.

Michele Gelfand is a Distinguished University Professor of Psychology at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her pioneering research into cultural norms has been cited thousands of times in the press, including in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Harvard Business Review, and Science. The recipient of numerous awards, she is a past president of the International Association for Conflict Management.