Rule Makers,

    Rule Breakers

How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire Our World

“Groundbreaking…Anyone interested in our cultural divides will find tremendous insight here.”

Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of Enlightenment Now


Professor of Psychology | University of Maryland, College Park


I am a Professor of Psychology and Affiliate of the RH Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. Under my direction, the Culture Lab studies the strength of cultural norms, negotiation, conflict, revenge, forgiveness, and diversity. My philosophy is to incorporate as many interdisciplinary perspectives as possible into my research. We work with computer scientists, neuroscientists, political scientists, and--increasingly--biologists to understand all things cultural. I will be moving to the Stanford Graduate School of Business starting Fall 2021.


Check out the group here, and find out how to get involved here.

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Select Papers

Gelfand, M. J., et al. (2011). Differences between tight and loose cultures: A 33-nation study. Science, 332(6033), 1100-1104. PDF.

Gelfand, M. J., Jackson, J. C., Pan, X., Nau, D., Pieper, D., Denison, E., ... & Wang, M. (2021). The relationship between cultural tightness–looseness and COVID-19 cases and deaths: a global analysis. The Lancet Planetary Health. PDF.

Harrington, J. R., & Gelfand, M. J. (2014). Tightness–looseness across the 50 united states. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201317937. PDF.

Mu, Y., Han, S., & Gelfand, M. J. (2017). The role of gamma interbrain synchrony in social coordination when humans face territorial threats. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, 12(10), 1614-1623. PDF.

Gelfand, M. J., Aycan, Z., Erez, M., & Leung, K. (2017). Cross-cultural industrial organizational psychology and organizational behavior: A hundred-year journey. Journal of Applied Psychology, 102(3), 514. PDF.

Gelfand, et al. (2015). Culture and getting to yes: The linguistic signature of creative agreements in the United States and Egypt. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 36(7), 967-989. PDF.

Gelfand, M. J., & Kashima, Y. (2016). Editorial overview: Culture: Advances in the science of culture and psychology. Current opinion in psychology, 8(1), 1-7. PDF.

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Popular Press

July/August 2021

The Threat Reflex: Why Some Societies Respond to Danger Better Than Others

Foreign Affairs


April 11, 2021

Fareed's Take: Society's role in Covid's spread



February 23, 2021

Why 'Tight' Cultures May Fare Better Than 'Loose' Cultures In A Pandemic



February 21, 2021

How cultural differences have affected Covid-19 outcomes



February 1, 2021

Why countries with 'loose', rule-breaking cultures have been hit harder by Covid

The Guardian


November 22, 2020

The psychology of Covid-19 stubbornness: why some American’s refuse to follow the rules




Gelfand is moving to the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Fall 2021

Gelfand is elected to the National Academy of Sciences, April 2021

Gelfand is elected Fellow of the International Association for Conflict Management, 2021

Josh Jackson (lab alumnus) is starting a post-doc at Kellogg School of Management, Fall 2021

Read Gelfand's new paper in The Lancet Planetary Health, January 2021

Ren Li (lab alumna) is starting as an assistant professor at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Fall 2021

Lisa Leslie (lab alumna) is promoted to full professor at New York University, Stern School of Business (Fall 2021) and is elected Fellow of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (2019)

Gelfand receives IACM Best Book Award (2020), Ursula Gielen Book Award (APA, 2020), and the Katzell Award (SIOP, 2020)

Rule Makers, Rule Breakers - Out now!

Gelfand is elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, April 2019





Feel free to contact me with the provided form. I will do my best to reply in a timely manner:

3147C Biology/Psychology Building 

University of Maryland 

4094 Campus Dr

College Park, MD 20742

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