Differences between Tight and Loose Cultures: A 33-Nation Study

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With data from 33 nations, we illustrate the differences between cultures that are tight (have many strong norms and a low tolerance of deviant behavior) versus loose (have weak social norms and a high tolerance of deviant behavior). Tightness-looseness is part of a complex, loosely integrated multilevel system that comprises distal ecological and historical threats (e.g., high population density, resource scarcity, a history of territorial conflict, and disease and environmental threats), broad versus narrow socialization in societal institutions (e.g., autocracy, media regulations), the strength of everyday recurring situations, and micro-level psychological affordances (e.g., prevention self-guides, high regulatory strength, need for structure). This research advances knowledge that can foster cross-cultural understanding in a world of increasing global interdependence and has implications for modeling cultural change.
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This paper was the winner of the Most Influential Paper Award for 2017, awarded by the Conflict Management Division of the Academy of Management. This paper was the winner of the 2012 Gordon Allport Intergroup Relations Prize, awarded by the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI).
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2011-01-01
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tight cultures; loose cultures; deviant behavior; socialization
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Required Publisher Statement: © American Association for the Advancement of Science. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved. Final version published as: Gelfand, M. J., Raver, J. L., Nishii, L. H., Leslie, L. M., Lun, J., Lim, B. C., Duan, L., … Yamaguchi, S. (2011). Differences between tight and loose cultures: A 33-nation study [Electronic version]. Science, 332(6033), 1100-1104. doi: 10.1126/science.1197754.
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