Michele Gelfand is a Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, and author of Rule Makers, Rule Breakers: How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire Our World. As a cross-cultural psychologist, Michele uses field, experimental, computational, and neuroscience methods to understand the evolution of culture and its consequences. In 2016 she received the Diener award from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, which honors a mid-career scholar who has made major contributions to social psychology. She also received the 2017 Outstanding International Psychologist Award from the APA, the 2018 Outstanding Cultural Psychology Award from SPSP, and the Annaliese Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.
Michele brings her considerable academic expertise to help us understand our own tight-loose mindsets, the degree to which we adhere to or are more comfortable flouting social norms. She observes that those who veer toward a tight mindset are stricter in their adherence to rules and they value punctuality, order, and accountability. Those who are closer to the other end of the tight-loose continuum are more comfortable with ambiguity, creativity, spontaneity, messiness. Michele wants to help us understand the mindsets of those around us at work, at home, and in our communities. Her aim, as she and Stew discuss in this episode, is to help increase self-awareness as well as an understanding of others’ perspectives so we can better prioritize what we truly value, convey this to others in a way that they can grasp, and come to a negotiated agreement that honors the important contributions of those with both tight and loose mindsets. They discuss how tight and loose mindsets vary across national cultures, organizational cultures, as well as within marriages and families and the critical role that perceived threats play in whether we veer toward a tight or loose mindset. To assess where you are on the tight-loose continuum take her quiz.