What should I ask Michele Gelfand?

I am doing a Conversations with Tyler with her, here is her home page.  She is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Maryland and has a new book coming out: Rule Makers, Rule Breakers: How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire Out World.  Here is part of the Amazon summary:

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 fifty 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.

She also is well-known for her analyses of how negotiations vary across organizations and cultures. Here is Gelfand on scholar.google.com.  Here is her Wikipedia page.

So what should I ask?


Jonathan Haidt talks about the disgust response as a source of similar reactions. She talks about fear. Same thing or different?

If you have any psychologist on the podcast without asking about the replication crisis and why we should even believe much of his/her research, the conversation is probably not geared towards learning something. So ask about that.

Ask her if she’s learned how to estimate interaction effects and the sample size needed to meaningfully test them. Ask her to define “highly statistically significant”, confidence interval, power and error. Ask her about why multiple comparisons matter when you’re fishing for p-values. Ask her if she still has confidence in papers like this: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/ca2c/d5041a4f7daa083f5b640d26f09d87261908.pdf

Ask her why it is that wealthy developed nations are so much “kinder” than poorer underdeveloped nations. Why are we so less racist, antiSemitic, jingoistic, religious, homophobic, mysoginistic, classist, anti-poor, anti-environment, and less cruel to animals. In other words, why are we so much kinder and so much less cruel than our ancestors? And why do just changes in moral values seem to inevitably occur with economic development. He standard explanation is usually “the enlightenment” but I suspect it’s just due to supply changes.

Brazil is actually kinder than the US, being a person that lived in both countries. The US is much more racist, more misogynistic, more selfish, anti-environment, more religious, more xenophobic as well. Although Brazil is more homophobic and classist. In terms of being "anti-poor" I am not sure, in terms of animal cruelty it's much more common for Americans to hunt animals than Brazilians.

I guess more research should be done on "kindness levels" before we can reach any conclusions regarding the correlation of it with per capita GDP. So far I don't see any clear correlation.

I base my question on Modernization, Cultural Change, and Democracy: The Human Development Sequence by Inglehart and Welzel. Using the world values survey, they find that a nation's GDP per capital predicts 70% of the variation of its people's values.

Really? Because there's a Brazilian poster on this board who is more racist and xenophobic than anybody from the US.

Yet, Brazil feeds, houses and feeds thousands of Venezuelans!! What are YOU doing?!

You are an impersonator. Has your newspaper cared to point out that it e as a non-authorized pogrom, that President Temer banned any further attack on immigrants and sent doctors and troops to help? That he decided to keep the border open no matter the cost? Thst Brazil is spending lots of money on refugees? Compare and contrast with America, Europe and Satanist Japan.

Satanist Japan?

They worship Shintoist/Buddhist demons.

Ilya, I'm not religious but it doesn't seem right to include "religious" on your list of awful things we used to have more of

I misspoke. I meant it in the sense that atheism seems to be an inevitable outcome of economic development, like the others on the list. I don't view religion as a bad thing.

Confuses symptom with the "Cause."

What is the relationship to our sense of agency over threat and its proximity? I and my colleagues have recently conducted a research study on the relationship between threat and one's sense of agency over it, with specific regard to why those born after the cold war rarely cite nuclear threat as a top concern. Our hypothesis is that nuclear threat is not proximate to them. When framed as a social justice, economic, health or environmental issue, respondents found nuclear threat more believable, relevant, and resonant. Might Michelle be able to shed more light on these findings?

Gelfand is an expert on conflict management. What does she think of Trump's approach to "managing" conflict with, say, North Korea, Russia, Iran, Turkey, Canada, Mexico, California....? Or is it just the voters he is managing?

What is her average grocery bill?

Any relation to Boris Gelfand?

I wondered about things like this back in the day.

For example, if you take a long walk in Los Angeles, in which neighborhood are you most likely to see non-famous great-grandchildren of people who were famous in the Silent Film Era? I can't help think Santa Monica/Venice Beach was the correct answer 20 years ago, but now, who knows? Thousand Oaks, maybe, or Santa Barbara near the shore ....

Or, what city has the highest concentration of people who have been close friends of great chess players, with the requisite wonderful memories of deep conversations about life and art and friendship and nature, great meals, and the occasional shakhmatistov cigars, shared in moments of youth and hope? (weddings, bar mitzvahs, graduation parties, housewarmings, the opening of a friend's restaurant/ gypsy night-club....)

Nobody knows.

By the way, if you played chess with me on Washington Square in the late 1970s and you remember that guy with the NY Mets hat who lent you 50 bucks as a stake but then had to suddenly leave because of the cold rainstorm, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, could you please send the 50 bucks to a charity of my choice - well, any one of those major be kind to animal charities will work - with an inscription on the check "chess NYC 1980 E.P.". It will be noted and appreciated. One of my neighbors had a yard sale the other day and I spent 50 bucks on a couple cardboard boxes full of her macrame collection, not that I wanted it, just that I knew nobody else would ever ever buy it and she has a year or two left before the dementia sets in full force, and I wanted her to have her last lucid memories of her macrame (and if you were around then, you know what macrame was to the with-it beautiful young 40-something women of NYC in the 1970s) be a sweet green fifty dollar bill not a sad look that we, too (you, me and our macrame) were considered worthless at the last. (Later, the millennial guy at goodwill told me he would pass it along to a local community college art teacher, who "really digs that stuff". )

After living in Germany, I really can't understand why clocks don't run accurately everywhere. Even if your culture is lackadaisical about punctuality, your clocks might as well be right. Most clocks in Germany have a tiny, cheap radio component that receives signals from the PTB (Germany's NIST) that is used to continually re-calibrate. (Some people call them "Atomuhren" (atomic clocks) because the PTB source is one.) See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DCF77.

And don't even get me started about traffic message signaling (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autofahrer-Rundfunk-Informationssystem), DIN paper, the windows, lane discipline and zipper merging, etc. There are plenty of things Germany does badly, but the rest of the world should straight-up copy the things they do well.

Well, we don't a time Gestapo to enforce time-conformity. We do not need a time Stasi to control our devices. Se don't need a centrally imposed Five-year Time Plan.


Just ignore Thiago Ribeiro, that's what the rest of us do. Most new clocks in the U.S. also sync with atomic clocks. Most people aren't buying new clocks, though. They're either getting an antique for show (think grandfather clock, or big designer wall clock), or else just using their phone for time (always sync'd with the local cell towers, which are generally ntp sync'd to a central time source). The worse are microwave/oven/car display clocks where it's an afterthought to add the time, so they don't take any care in auto-setting them. They're mostly likely to be wrong, especially when people have to change them in DST-honoring locations.

I was recently in a hotel with 5 clocks behind the lobby desk. Chicago, London, NYC, HK, and Sydney. Chicago, where we were, was correct, as was, IIRC, HK. The others were off by completely random amounts of hours and minutes.

That is some low-effort incompetence to remove from your business

What is really amusing is how cheap such clocks can be - a wall clock can definitely be bought for under 10 dollars at Aldi, for example. To be honest, I have pretty much only heard 'Funkuhr'/radio clock to describe them.

And as many things in the last generation, I believe the system is EU wide, not merely Germany.

Not familiar with her work and of course the Amazon blurb is hype generally not helpful but: why would "perception of threat" as a fundamental (primal) motivator be anything other than obvious? Seems to me to be almost the equivalent of "concluding" our metabolism is dependent on oxygen: No sh.t, sherlock. {I'd guess her contribution (if there is one) is in demonstrating how pervasive our predator/prey response is in our daily life and the non-obvious situations in which it is evoked.}

Cowen: "She also is well-known for her analyses of how negotiations vary across organizations and cultures." Boy, is that accurate. That's the assessment of a lawyer who has spent many decades negotiating. With respect to organizations, entire law firms follow the lead of the founders as untrustworthy negotiators. Why do younger members of the firm adopt the same untrustworthy propensities of the founders? With respect to cultures, there are those who consider negotiations never to be at an end. No, I don't mean untrustworthy, just endless negotiators. They might agree to a compromise, only to come back and negotiate the compromise. It's never ending. At the personal level, there are prospective clients from particular cultures for which I will not accept the engagement unless I am paid in full before opening the file and the check has cleared. Again, these are not untrustworthy, just endless negotiators.

recommended person to have a "Conversation with Tyler": https://www.communication.udel.edu/faculty-and-staff/faculty/dgyoung
Her personal story of resilience https://twitter.com/dannagal/status/937325330616016896?lang=en
...and lots of interesting things to say about the world...

How does religion interact with feelings of "threat?" Does a post-christian nation feel more or less threatened? Do Christians fear different things? Do they react to fear differently (i.e. "no fear")? I guess I would ask her something about Rene Girard and Scapegoating.

What is her favorite non-intuitive example of how predator-prey responses shape cultural norms?

Norm change and Game Theory: What does she think about Morality as Cooperation? https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281585949_Morality_as_Cooperation_A_Problem-Centred_Approach
For video format:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63Ynfu427zc

What are the biggest discoveries and limitations using the tool of Evolutionary Game Theory in the (non-Econ) social sciences? What does the future of this research look like?

Thoughts on Joe Henrich et al's Origins of WEIRD Psychology?

Has research on organizational psychology based on Silicon Valley been good or bad for the field or organizational psychology? Have we learned anything useful or is it all just dumb luck and network effects?

Obviously thoughts on replication crisis. How to fix academia.

Why are women bad negotiators?

I would like to know why some children from the same family have such wildly divergent political views i.e democratic socialism on one end and staunch conservatism on the other.

How does she contrast the perception of threat, to the perception of risk. Do people behave or respond differently between the two? If so, how by much? Do genders respond differently - and to what degree?

1) if behavior is fundamentally influenced by perception of threats, is that a bad thing on net?
2) in which countries/cultures is behavior shaped most by perceptions of threats? Is this good or bad?

How is “tight and loose” different from Mary Douglas’ grid-group schema?

why do new Zealand women have the hightest number of sexual partners?

and how exactly do you know that new zealand women
have the highest number of sexual partners and how high are we talking about?

1 is malcomgladwell giving Americas youth the measles?

2 how come everbodys trying to jab elon musk in the nads all of a sudden?
we think elon musk is actually pretty cool

1. shes not talking about that study by the condom corp. durex is she?
2 aren't new Zealand women widely known across the universe for being pretty good bullshitters? anddidn't the word bullshit come from the kiwis?

if a condom company has a study that suggests new Zealand girls have a lot more sex partners (20!)than every other country that is a bold claim it could be true but how good is the methodology of the study?
it looks like the sorta thing that is fraught and fraughter with potential type 1 and type 2 errors.
the study claims to have accurately calculated the average number of sex partners for a bunch of different countries this seems like it would
be difficult to do with precision by a condom company.
aren't statistical outliars like this often the result of sampling error

2. how do you get a bike to new Zealand?
3 what does it mean when a girl makes the sign of the cross at you
when you walk by her on a public sidewalk?

then all you have to do is get the media to focus on a statistical out-liar
that is more likely than not a sampling error. fortunately that is the easy

because the media didn't take statistics

Means ‘keep away from me’ - as in showing a crucifix to a vampire.

do you know the girl that made the sign of the cross at you ?


you gotta low social credit score

draper rebranded the bias response team as "social credit score" and
fired the bias response team, you get your social credit score from china now.

does the study really support the news headline

looks like a more safe and accurate media headline be durax condom corp1 claims kiwi women most promiscuous in the world unless we know for sure


good point. don't let the durax condom corp. turn it into a competition

The most impressive book I have read on why there are differences in national wealth is Gregory Clarks "A Farewell to Alms", I thought it very much better than the other seminal book - Guns, Germs and Steel. Which of this two alternative thesis on human development does Michelle align to? Or does she have a different explanation?

Ask her how religious differences shape people's priorities, their perceptions of risks and threats, and lead to misunderstandings. How does this play out at the individual, local and national level. How does she see religious influences changing in the future.

Comments for this post are closed