How The Invisible Influence of Culture Shapes Our Behavior | Michele Gelfand

The culture we live in has an invisible influence over our individual and collective behaviors. The tendency towards openness or order in a society is expressed by Michele Gelfand, as the looseness or tightness of a culture. How loose or tight a country is can be correlated to the amount of threat the nation has faced in the past, and in turn, can indicate how its people will respond to a new threat, such as a global pandemic.

Sometimes the most important realities around us are the most taken for granted and invisible. ~ Michele Gelfand Share on X

Michele Gelfand is Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Professor of Psychology by Courtesy at Stanford University. She wrote her book “Rule Makers, Rule Breakers: Tight and Loose Cultures and the Secret Signals That Direct Our Lives” in the era before COVID. Despite that she astutely addressed how tight and loose nations would respond to the threat of a global pandemic. We were honored to have the time to chat more with Michele about this topic and many others in this episode.


(5:49) Welcome and speed round questions.

(6:27) How culture influences our behavior.

(10:26) How the threat to a nation influences how tight and loose cultures are.

(13:21) What Bert and Ernie can teach us about our tight and loose personalities.

(16:27) What factors influence our default tendency to be tight or loose people?

(20:21) The global threat of the pandemic and how loose and tight cultures responded.

(28:48) What Ukraine has taught us about national identity.

(30:47) How can societies maximize both order and openness?

(35:02) Can organizations instigate flexible tightness?

(39:42) Do we have blind spots on how open we are?

(43:26) How values and attitudes influence your behaviors in different cultures.

(47:41) What nudge worked to encourage mask wearing among Republicans and Democrats?

(51:50) The music that influences Michele’s work.

(57:54) Grooving Session with Kurt and Tim discussing Michele’s interview.

© 2022 Behavioral Grooves

What To Listen To After This Episode

Episode 266, Sandra Sucher, Trust: The Four Key Steps to Genuinely Build It

Episode 102, Cristina Bicchieri, Social Norms are Bundles of Expectations

Episode 248, John Bargh, Do We Control Situations or Do Situations Control Us? 

AIRDATE: May 2, 2022 EPISODE 292

This episode also available via:

How The Invisible Influence of Culture Shapes Our Behavior | Michele Gelfand