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Rule Makers, Rule Breakers: How Culture Wires Our Minds, Shapes Our Nations, and Drives Our Differences

Michele J. Gelfand

8 Reviews

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Cultural studies, Social, group or collective psychology, Popular science, Popular psychology

A ground-breaking new popular psychology book revealing the cultural factors that link us all, with practical applications for business, politics and everyday social interactions.

"A groundbreaking analysis of what used to be an impenetrable mystery: how and why do cultures differ? Gelfand shows that a wide range of divides of class, culture, and coalition are traceable to an intriguing source. Anyone interested in our cultural divides will find tremendous insight in Rule Makers, Rule Breakers." - Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of Enlightenment Now

Why are clocks in Germany always correct, while those in Brazil are frequently wrong? Why are Singaporeans jailed for selling gum? Why do women in New Zealand have three times the sex of females worldwide? Why was the Daimler-Chrysler merger ill-fated from the start? And why does each generation of Americans give their kids weirder and weirder names?

Curious about the answers to these and other questions, award-winning social psychologist Michele Gelfand has spent two decades studying both tight societies (with clearly stated rules and codes of ethics) and loose societies (more informal communities with weak or ambiguous norms). Putting each under the microscope, she conducted research in more than fifty countries and collaborated with political scientists, neuroscientists, computer scientists, anthropologists, and archaeologists. Her fascinating conclusion: behaviour seems largely dependent on perceived threats. It's why certain nations seem predisposed to tangle with others; some American states identify as "Red" and others as "Blue"; and those attending a sports contest, health club, or school function behave in prescribed ways.

Rule Makers, Rule Breakers reveals how to predict national variations around the globe, why some leaders innovate and others don't, and even how a tight vs. loose system can determine happiness. Consistently riveting and always illuminating, Michele Gelfand's book helps us understand how a single cultural trait dramatically affects even the smallest aspects of our lives.

"Fascinating and profound...It's quite possibly this year's best book on culture." Roy F. Baumeister, bestselling co-author of Willpower and author of The Cultural Animal

"This brilliant book is full of well-documented insights that will change the way you look at yourself and at the world around you." Barry Schwartz, bestselling author of The Paradox of Choice, Practical Wisdom, and Why We Work

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Praise for Rule Makers, Rule Breakers: How Culture Wires Our Minds, Shapes Our Nations, and Drives Our Differences

  • "A groundbreaking analysis of what used to be an impenetrable mystery: how and why do cultures differ? Gelfand shows that a wide range of divides of class, culture, and coalition are traceable to an intriguing source. Anyone interested in our cultural divides will find tremendous insight in Rule Makers, Rule Breakers." - Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of Enlightenment Now

  • "Remarkable. Not just an enlightening book but a game-changing one. By uncovering the inner workings of tight and loose cultures, Rule Makers, Rule Breakers suddenly makes sense of the puzzling behavior we see all around us-in colleagues, family, and even ourselves." - Carol Dweck, bestselling author of Mindset

  • "This brilliant book is full of well-documented insights that will change the way you look at yourself and at the world around you. Gelfand presents a wealth of scientific evidence with a light touch that has the reader eager to know what comes next. I can't think of anyone who won't learn something important from this book."

  • -Barry Schwartz, bestselling author of The Paradox of Choice, Practical Wisdom, and Why We Work

  • "Despite their great importance, the hidden factors that influence whether people comply with what is expected of them or write their own script has long gone underappreciated. With this book, Michele Gelfand has done much to unravel the mysteries of human motivation. Anyone interested in how social norms-and, therefore, people-operate will be grateful for her compelling analysis."

  • -Robert Cialdini, bestselling author of Influence and Pre-Suasion

  • "A fascinating and profound book by one of psychology's most creative researchers. The well-chosen facts and findings about different cultures will make you alternately laugh, nod, and moan-and make you eager to read more. Beautifully written, packed with scientific facts and findings, this important book celebrates and explains the diversity of human culture. It emphasizes a key dimension of cultural difference: Some cultures pressure everyone to follow the same rules, while almost anything goes in other cultures-and Gelfand carefully and impressively lays out the pluses and minuses of both types. Anyone interested in the deep mysteries of human life and cultural diversity will find this book a rich source of information and a thought-provoking challenge to common assumptions. It's quite possibly this year's best book on culture."

  • -Roy F. Baumeister, bestselling co-author of Willpower and author of The Cultural Animal

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Michele J. Gelfand

Michele Gelfand is a professor of psychology at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her pioneering research into cultural norms, conducted in over fifty countries, has been cited more than 22,000 times in the media, including in The Washington Post and Scientific American, and on NPR. The recipient of numerous awards, she is a past president of the International Association for Conflict Management.

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