Michele Gelfand

Michele Gelfand
University of Maryland, College Park | UMD, UMCP, University of Maryland College Park · Department of Psychology

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269
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Introduction
Skills and Expertise

Publications

Publications (269)
Article
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At the beginning of 2020, COVID-19 became a global problem. Despite all the efforts to emphasize the relevance of preventive measures, not everyone adhered to them. Thus, learning more about the characteristics determining attitudinal and behavioral responses to the pandemic is crucial to improving future interventions. In this study, we applied ma...
Article
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An astonishing cultural phenomenon is where, far away from or close to a city center, people in different societies localize cemeteries that function as both sites of memory of lost ones and symbols of mortality. Yet a psychological account of such differences in behavioral responses to symbols of mortality is lacking. Across five studies ( N = 1,5...
Article
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People vary on their desire for strict norms, and the moral underpinnings of these differences have yet to be explored. The current research examined whether and how moral beliefs held by individuals would affect the extent to which they want their country to be tight (i.e., having strict social norms) or loose (i.e., having more permissive social...
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Many people practiced COVID-19-related safety measures in the first year of the pandemic, but Republicans were less likely to engage in behaviors such as wearing masks or face coverings than Democrats, suggesting radical disparities in health practices split along political fault lines. We developed an "intervention tournament" which aimed to ident...
Article
Opportunistic actors-who behave expediently, cheating when they can and offering minimal cooperation only when they have to-play an important role in producing some puzzling phenomena, including the flourishing of strong reciprocity, the peculiar correlation between positive and negative reciprocity within cultures of honor, and low levels of socia...
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The present paper examines longitudinally how subjective perceptions about COVID-19, one’s community, and the government predict adherence to public health measures to reduce the spread of the virus. Using an international survey ( N = 3040), we test how infection risk perception, trust in the governmental response and communications about COVID-19...
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Since humanity's first steps, individuals have used nonverbal cues to communicate and infer leadership, such as walking ahead of others. Menon et al., (2010) showed that the use of spatial ordering as cue to leadership differs across cultures: Singaporeans were more likely than Americans to represent leaders behind rather than in front of groups. F...
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Changing collective behaviour and supporting non-pharmaceutical interventions is an important component in mitigating virus transmission during a pandemic. In a large international collaboration (Study 1, N = 49,968 across 67 countries), we investigated self-reported factors associated with public health behaviours (e.g., spatial distancing and str...
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In today’s vast digital landscape, people are constantly exposed to threatening language, which attracts attention and activates the human brain’s fear circuitry. However, to date, we have lacked the tools needed to identify threatening language and track its impact on human groups. To fill this gap, we developed a threat dictionary, a computationa...
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We propose a new theoretical model depicting the compensatory relations between personal agency and social assistance. It suggests two general hypotheses, namely that (1) the stronger the individuals’ sense of personal agency, the weaker their motivation to utilize social assistance and the greater their consequent tendency to develop anti-social a...
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Tightening social norms is thought to be adaptive for dealing with collective threat yet it may have negative consequences for increasing prejudice. The present research investigated the role of desire for cultural tightness, triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, in increasing negative attitudes towards immigrants. We used participant-level data from...
Preprint
Full-text available
Many people practiced COVID-19-related safety measures in the first year of the pandemic, but Republicans were less likely to engage in behaviors such as wearing masks or face coverings than Democrats, suggesting radical disparities in health practices split along political fault lines. We developed an “intervention tournament” which aimed to ident...
Article
Full-text available
When ecological threats are more severe or prevalent, societies are more likely to tighten their social norms and punishments. Moreover, when people follow clear and tight rules, they are more prone to regulate their behavior (i.e., self-control) in order to avoid punishment. Therefore, we examined the mediating role of people’s endorsement of cult...
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Civilian casualties occur during military attacks. Such ‘collateral damage’ is prohibited by international laws but increases with substantial consequences when intergroup conflict escalates. Here, we investigate cognitive and neural bases of decision-making processes resulting in civilian harm, using a task that simulates punishment decision-makin...
Article
In this article, we show that an evolutionary game theoretic (EGT) modeling approach can be fruitfully integrated with research in cross-cultural psychology to provide insight into cultural dynamics. EGT was initially developed to model biological evolution, but has been increasingly used to study the evolution of human behavior. Through "virtual e...
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Norm enforcement may be important for resolving conflicts and promoting cooperation. However, little is known about how preferred responses to norm violations vary across cultures and across domains. In a preregistered study of 57 countries (using convenience samples of 22,863 students and non-students), we measured perceptions of the appropriatene...
Article
Full-text available
Norm enforcement may be important for resolving conflicts and promoting cooperation. However, little is known about how preferred responses to norm violations vary across cultures and across domains. In a preregistered study of 57 countries (using convenience samples of 22,863 students and non-students), we measured perceptions of the appropriatene...
Preprint
Full-text available
We propose a new theoretical model depicting the compensatory relations between personal agency and social assistance. It suggests two general hypotheses, namely that (1) the stronger the individuals’ sense of personal agency, the weaker their motivation to utilize social assistance and the greater their consequent tendency to develop anti-social a...
Article
Full-text available
Background: The COVID-19 pandemic is a global health crisis, yet certain countries have had far more success in limiting COVID-19 cases and deaths. We suggest that collective threats require a tremendous amount of coordination, and that strict adherence to social norms is a key mechanism that enables groups to do so. Here we examine how the strengt...
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Humans have believed in gods and spirits since the earliest days of our species, and many people still believe in them today. Although the existence of religious belief has been a human constant, the nature and prevalence of religion has changed dramatically throughout human history. Here we describe the emerging science of religious change. We fir...
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Billions of people from around the world believe in vengeful gods who punish immoral behavior. These punitive religious beliefs may foster prosociality and contribute to large-scale cooperation, but little is known about how these beliefs emerge and why people adopt them in the first place. We present a cultural-psychological model suggesting that...
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The present research addresses the unique role of locomotion and assessment regulatory-mode orientations on self-forgiveness, by controlling for personality traits and by excluding possible effects of variables linked to strategies that underestimate one’s culpability. In three studies (Total N = 471) we found that assessment obstructs, while locom...
Preprint
Full-text available
Civilian casualties occur during military attacks. Such collateral damage is prohibited by international laws but increases with substantial consequences when intergroup conflict escalates. We investigate cognitive and neural bases of collateral damage by integrating brain imaging and statistical modeling of punishment decision-making during interg...
Preprint
Full-text available
In this work, we study how social contacts and feelings of solidarity shape experiences of loneliness during the COVID-19 lockdown in early 2020. We draw on cross-national data, collected across four time points between mid-March until early May 2020. We situate our work within the public debate on these issues and discuss to what extent the public...
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Humans and viruses have been coevolving for millennia. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19) has been particularly successful in evading our evolved defenses. The outcome has been tragic—across the globe, millions have been sickened and hundreds of thousands have died. Moreover, the quarantine...
Article
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The PsyCorona collaboration is a research project to examine processes involved in the COVID-19 pandemic, such as behavior that curbs virus transmission, which may implicate social norms, cooperation, and self-regulation. The study also examines psychosocial consequences of physical distancing strategies and societal lockdown, such as frustration o...
Article
Prior evidence suggests that external threat motivates people to monitor norm violations. However, the effect of threat may be attenuated for those high in interdependent self-construal (SC) because this SC affords a sense of protection against the threat. Here, we tested this possibility by priming or not priming young American adults with a patho...
Article
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The impacts of COVID-19 on workers and workplaces across the globe have been dramatic. This broad review of prior research rooted in work and organizational psychology, and related fields, is intended to make sense of the implications for employees, teams, and work organizations. This review and preview of relevant literatures focuses on (a) emerge...
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Objective Ample research documented the effects of guiding principles in people’s lives, as reflected in personal values, on a variety of behaviors. But do these principles universally guide behaviors across all cultural contexts? To address this question, we investigated the effect of cross‐cultural differences in the strength of social norms (i.e...
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Mapping the Moods of COVID-19: Global Study Uses Data Visualization to Track Psychological Responses, Identify Targets for Intervention
Preprint
Full-text available
Billions of people from around the world believe in vengeful gods who punish immoral behavior. These punitive religious beliefs may foster prosociality and contribute to large-scale cooperation, but little is known about how these beliefs emerge and why people adopt them in the first place. We present a cultural-psychological model suggesting that...
Article
Full-text available
Governments around the world have implemented measures to manage the transmission of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). While the majority of these measures are proving effective, they have a high social and economic cost, and response strategies are being adjusted. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that communities should have a voi...
Preprint
Full-text available
COVID-19’s impacts on workers and workplaces across the globe have been dramatic. We present a broad review of prior research rooted in work and organizational psychology, and related fields, for making sense of the implications for employees, teams, and work organizations. Our review and preview of relevant literatures focuses on: (i) emerging cha...
Article
Full-text available
Human groups have long faced ecological threats such as resource stress and warfare, and must also overcome strains on coordination and cooperation that are imposed by growing social complexity. Tightness-looseness (TL) theory suggests that societies react to these challenges by becoming culturally tighter, with stronger norms and harsher punishmen...
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Tomasello describes how the sense of moral obligation emerges from a shared perspective with collaborative partners and in-group members. Our commentary expands this framework to accommodate multiple social identities, where the normative standards associated with diverse group memberships can often conflict with one another. Reconciling these conf...
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Full-text available
The COVID-19 pandemic represents a massive global health crisis. Because the crisis requires large-scale behaviour change and places significant psychological burdens on individuals, insights from the social and behavioural sciences can be used to help align human behaviour with the recommendations of epidemiologists and public health experts. Here...
Preprint
Full-text available
Prior evidence suggests that external threat motivates people to monitor norm violations. However, the effect of threat may be attenuated for those high in interdependent self-construal (SC) since this SC affords a sense of protection against the threat. Here, we tested this possibility by priming or not priming young American adults with a pathoge...
Preprint
The spread of COVID-19 represents a global public health crisis, yet some nations have been more effective at limiting the spread of the virus and the likelihood that people die from infection. Here we show that institutional and cultural factors combine to explain these cross-cultural differences. Nations with efficient governments and tight cultu...
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Full-text available
From Australia to the Arctic, human groups engage in synchronous behaviour during communal rituals. Because ritualistic synchrony is widespread, many argue that it is functional for human groups, encouraging large-scale cooperation and group cohesion. Here, we offer a more nuanced perspective on synchrony's function. We review research on synchrony...
Preprint
Full-text available
The COVID-19 pandemic represents a massive, global health crisis. Because the crisis requires large-scale behavior change and poses significant psychological burdens on individuals, insights from the social and behavioural sciences are critical for optimizing pandemic response. Here we review relevant research from a diversity of research areas rel...
Article
Full-text available
One fundamental function of social norms is to promote social coordination. Moreover, greater social coordination may be called for when tight norms govern social relations with others. Hence, the sensitivity to social norm violations may be jointly modulated by relational goals and a belief that the social context is tight (vs. loose). We tested t...
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Revenge during intergroup conflict is a human universal, but its neurobiological underpinnings remain unclear. We address this by integrating functional MRI and measurements of endogenous oxytocin in participants who view an ingroup and an outgroup member's suffering that is caused mutually (Revenge group) or respectively by a computer (Control gro...
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Religion shapes the nature of intergroup conflict, but conflict may also shape religion. Four multi-method studies reveal the impact of conflict on religious belief: The threat of warfare and intergroup tensions increase the psychological need for order and rule-following, which leads people to view God as more punitive. Studies 1 (N = 372) and 2 (...
Preprint
Full-text available
Human groups have long faced ecological threats such as resource stress and warfare, and must also overcome strains on coordination and cooperation that are imposed by growing social complexity. How do societies adapt to these challenges? Tightness-looseness (TL) theory suggests that ecological threat and social complexity both lead societies to be...
Article
Full-text available
Prejudiced attitudes and political nationalism vary widely around the world, but there has been little research on what predicts this variation. Here we examine the ecological and cultural factors underlying the worldwide distribution of prejudice. We suggest that cultures grow more prejudiced when they tighten cultural norms in response to destabi...
Article
Negotiation scholars generally model agreement as the terminal “endpoint” of the process. From this perspective, parties instantaneously realize their outcomes when agreement is reached. Although this conception may also reflect the understanding of some negotiators (those with what we call a “Fixed Agreement” mindset), we argue that others actuall...
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The current research included 7 studies testing a model of interpersonal processes when people disclose to their close relationship partners ("confidants") about their conflicts involving adversaries outside the dyad. The model posits that confidants who feel close to disclosers tend to adopt goals to be responsive to disclosers during these intera...
Article
Negotiation scholars generally model agreement as the terminal “endpoint” of the process. From this perspective, parties instantaneously realize their outcomes when agreement is reached. Although this conception may also reflect the understanding of some negotiators (those with what we call a “fixed agreement” mindset), we argue that others actuall...
Article
Full-text available
Quest for significance theory (Kruglanski et al., 2013; Kruglanski, Jasko, Chernikova, Dugas, & Webber 2017) states that extreme behavior for an ideological cause is more likely under psychological conditions that induce a search for significance and social recognition. Two forms of motivation for significance have been identified; the quest for in...
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In the version of this article initially published, errors appeared in three sentences. In the abstract, the sentence beginning “We next examine” should have read “adolescent pregnancies, crime, and high school attendance”; in the main text, the sentence beginning “More recently, the 1964 Civil Rights Act” should have read “directly challenged the...
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Social norms are a key feature of human sociality. By clarifying expectations and facilitating coordination, social norms serve as the cornerstones of well-functioning collectives. Reflecting their pivotal role in sustaining the smooth operation of groups and communities, research on social norms in psychology and adjacent disciplines is flourishin...
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For many years, scientists have studied culture by comparing societies, regions or social groups within a single point in time. However, culture is always changing, and this change affects the evolution of cognitive processes and behavioural practices across and within societies. Studies have now documented historical changes in sexism, individuali...
Data
GeeraertSupplementalMaterial – Supplemental material for A Tight Spot: How Personality Moderates the Impact of Social Norms on Sojourner Adaptation
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How do you navigate the norms of your new culture when living abroad? Taking an interactionist perspective, we examined how contextual factors and personality traits jointly affect sojourners’ adaptation to the host-country culture. We hypothesized that tightness (strong, rigidly imposed norms) of the host culture would be associated with lower lev...
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Why do people take revenge? This question can be difficult to answer. Vengeance seems interpersonally destructive and antithetical to many of the most basic human instincts. However, an emerging body of social scientific research has begun to illustrate a logic to revenge, demonstrating why revenge evolved in humans and when and how people take rev...
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Bringing groups into direct contact is a popular way to break down negative stereotypes but is logistically challenging when groups are geographically distant or otherwise isolated. To address this issue, we present the diary contact technique (DCT), a methodology designed to improve relations between such groups via positive contact. In the DCT, i...
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Whitehouse's theory on fusion can explain why suicide terrorists are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their groups, but the following questions on violent extremism remain: (a) Why are victims of suicide terrorism often innocent bystanders? (b) Why do terrorists seem motivated by ancient conflicts? We incorporate findings from the entitat...