Vail Symposium seminar explores the tension of our culture |

Vail Symposium seminar explores the tension of our culture

Thursday’s virtual event features Dr. Michelle Gelfand

Special to the Daily
Dr. Michele Gelfand, professor of organizational behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business, discusses the attributes of tight and loose cultures.
Unsplash/Courtesy photo

Tight cultures tend to have strong cultural norms and a pronounced lack of tolerance for deviant behavior. Conversely, loose cultures have weak cultural norms and more tolerance for deviant behavior.

Whether tight or loose, cultures come with advantages and trade-offs. For instance, the United States has grown progressively looser over the last two centuries. As a result, creativity has increased, while at the same time social order has decreased.

On Thursday, Jan. 13, on a Zoom webinar from 6-7 p.m., Dr. Michelle Gelfand will discuss the implications and impacts of tight or loose cultures.

The pandemic exposed the drawbacks of cultural looseness. In March 2020, as the coronavirus spread, Gelfand observed that Americans’ “decentralized, defiant, do-it-your-own-way norms” could prove dangerous in the months ahead. That warning came to fruition, as a study of 57 nations published in “The Lancet Planetary Health” revealed. Gelfand and her coauthors found that the U.S. and other loose countries had much higher numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

The United States’ response to the pandemic shows how the advantages of looseness can become liabilities in a crisis. The ability to pivot away from looseness or tightness is important not just for societies but for organizations seeking both innovation and order. This program will not set out to prove one culture is better than the other but rather explain how they differ, provide concrete examples and examine how their differences manifest in public policy and political reaction, especially to crises.

Support Local Journalism

Gelfand is the John H. Scully Professor in Cross-Cultural Management and Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business. She is also Professor of Psychology (by courtesy), School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University.

She is the author of “Rule Makers, Rule Breakers: How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire the World” and co-editor of “Values, Political Action, and Change in the Middle East and the Arab Spring,” “The Handbook of Conflict and Conflict Management,” and “The Handbook of Negotiation and Culture.” She is the founding co-editor of the Advances in Culture and Psychology Annual Series and the Frontiers of Culture and Psychology series.

Attendees can register for the webinar for free at


What: Tight or Loose: Cultural Variation and Crisis Response

When: Thursday, Jan. 13, 6-7 p.m.

Where: Zoom webinar

More information: Visit for more information and to register

Support Local Journalism