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Michele Gelfand on Tight and Loose Cultures (Ep. 49)

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Mercatus Center
Sep 12, 2018 · 42 min read
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Tight cultures, both in modern day and in ancient history, from our research with anthropologists, archaeologists, they don’t share a similar religion. They don’t share a same location. They don’t share a same language. But they do share one fundamental aspect of their sociality, which is that they experience, generally speaking, a lot of threat.

COWEN: As you know, it’s a common distinction in cross-cultural analysis to call some cultures individualistic and others collectivistic. How does tightness and looseness differ from that distinction? What do you pick up that, say, the work of Triandis does not?

On wealth and social norms

COWEN: One of my readers wrote to me and suggested, correctly or not, that about 70 percent of the variation in a people’s values can be explained by wealth. Do you agree? Just this one variable, wealth, much more important than anything else. True or false?

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On the replication crisis

COWEN: How bad is the replication crisis in social psychology? It relates not so much to your work, but it’s become a big issue. What’s your view?

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On things under- and overrated

COWEN: Now in the middle of these discussions, there’s usually a segment, overrated versus underrated. I’ll toss out some names of things. You’re free to pass on any one of them, but please give us your opinion. First and foremost, Bethesda, Maryland. Overrated or underrated?

The length of journals makes it such that people don’t review literature that happened 50, 60 years ago, even in the science. It’s a big problem, and that we need to make sure that our theories are not just getting rehashed because people don’t know what happened 60 years ago.

On the importance of management

COWEN: Do social psychologists have anything to teach CEOs about management?

An undervalued, underrated concept in psychology is metaphor. We live in a context where sports metaphors, game metaphors, are really guiding a lot of interaction in general but also in negotiation. In those contexts, the clock is ticking. People feel like they have to get things done quickly. That’s where the impatience comes from. It comes from certain metaphors.

When you’re in a relationship metaphor, the clock is not ticking.

COWEN: Putting aside your political views, but just if you observe Donald Trump as a negotiator — as a psychologist, what strikes you?

On the Michele Gelfand production function

COWEN: I’ll close with a few questions about the Michele Gelfand production function, which is that classic thing we do in these chats. What’s your secret to how you’ve been so productive so as to publish so much? Other than just hard work. That’s obvious. What is it you can teach other people about how to be productive?

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Conversations with Tyler

A podcast in which esteemed economist Tyler Cowen engages…

Mercatus Center

Written by

The Mercatus Center at George Mason University is the world’s premier university source for market-oriented ideas.

Conversations with Tyler

A podcast in which esteemed economist Tyler Cowen engages with today's most underrated thinkers in wide-ranging explorations of their work, the world, and everything in between.

Mercatus Center

Written by

The Mercatus Center at George Mason University is the world’s premier university source for market-oriented ideas.

Conversations with Tyler

A podcast in which esteemed economist Tyler Cowen engages with today's most underrated thinkers in wide-ranging explorations of their work, the world, and everything in between.

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