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Publisher's Summary

In Rule Makers, Rule Breakers celebrated cultural psychologist Michele Gelfand takes us on an epic journey through human cultures, offering a startling new view of the world and ourselves. With a mix of brilliantly conceived studies and surprising on-the-ground discoveries, she shows that much of the diversity in the way we think and act derives from a key difference - how tightly or loosely we adhere to social norms. 

Why are clocks in Germany so accurate while those in Brazil are frequently wrong? Why do New Zealand’s women have the highest number of sexual partners? Why are “Red” and “Blue” states really so divided? Why was the Daimler-Chrysler merger ill-fated from the start? Why is the driver of a Jaguar more likely to run a red light than the driver of a plumber’s van? Why does one spouse prize running a “tight ship” while the other refuses to “sweat the small stuff"? 

In search of a common answer, Gelfand has spent two decades conducting research in more than 50 countries. Across all age groups, family variations, social classes, businesses, states, and nationalities, she’s identified a primal pattern that can trigger cooperation or conflict. Her fascinating conclusion: Behavior is highly influenced by the perception of threat.   

With an approach that is consistently riveting, Rule Makers, Rule Breakers thrusts many of the puzzling attitudes and actions we observe into sudden and surprising clarity.

©2018 Michele Gelfand (P)2018 Simon & Schuster

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  • Stevo
  • Houston, TX
  • 09-14-18

An interesting lens to look through

This book will reward your patience. It ties a bunch of ideas together into a single unifying idea. A distinction between tightness and looseness.

It moves really slowly at first. You feel like it is pretty subtle, the difference between her tightness/looseness and ideas you may have read about a cultures individualism/collectivism. It moves on to talk about tightness/looseness on an individual level which seems similar to "openness" from the Big Five personality traits.

Once there, and tying the concept from society to individual level into a single concept it starts delivering insights as it expands on causes of tightness/looseness. It steps you through the forces at play on social class, differences in US states, lessons that can be drawn regarding the election of Donald Trump, corporate cultures, mergers and acquisitions, marital problems, Arab spring revolutions, and populism.

It is a book that belongs alongside Jonathan Haidt and Martin Seligman on a bookshelf.

It’s my own preference that this sort of book that comes out of academia and spends pages building an idea to not skip the sentence that anticipates your objections. A sentence or two that goes something like: "Singapore and New Zealand are outliers in this case. Controlling for a country's wealth, the tightness/looseness of a country is a significant variable on life expectancy to a 90% confidence interval" or whatever. But she does not include that sentence. You don't know if she has controlled for wealth in this instance. And you don't know why she has switched examples from New Zealand and Singapore to Ukraine and Turkey beyond that is supports the point she is trying to make right now. Since she is an academic, you are best off just to trust her that she is not being disingenuous, and that these models have been correctly set up.

It is an interesting way of looking at things that delivers insight. It’s worth a credit and the time investment. I feel like I will take the perspective from this book and use it in the way I look at certain problems. That is valuable.

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Long and drawn out

The book had interesting points and perspective; however it went from my running listen to my sleep aid. Found the content and reader’s voice repetitive and uninteresting.