Laid-back vs. strict cultures

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A note for Lesson no. 2, "Your Brain Is a Network," in Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context from page 43 is:

If you have to move from the equator to Northern Europe, or from a laid-back culture to one with strict rules, you’ll adapt more swiftly with a complex brain in your head.

Laid-back cultures are called "loose" cultures. These cultures have weak social norms and are more likely to tolerate it when people violate those norms. Cultures with strict rules are called "tight" cultures. Tight cultures have strong norms and are less tolerant when people break those norms (i.e., they are more likely to punish people who do not follow social rules).

Cultures that vary in their looseness/tightness vary historically (in terms of how dense their populations are, how much conflict there has been over land, how much people have had to deal with disease or changes in the environment), and they also vary in their social structures and cultural practices. To learn more, see research by the psychologist Michele Gelfand.[1]


  1. Gelfand, Michele. 2018. Rule Makers, Rule Breakers: How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire Our World. New York: Scribner.