The cultural dimension of tightness–looseness: An analysis of situational constraint in Estonia and Greece

Anu Realo, Karmen Linnamägi, Michele J. Gelfand
Published Online:
14 Aug 2014
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 50 Issue 3

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The importance of tightness–looseness as a dimension that explains a considerable amount of variance between cultures was demonstrated by Gelfand et al. (2011). Tight nations have many strong norms and a low tolerance of deviant behaviour, whereas loose nations have weak social norms and a high tolerance of deviant behaviour. The main aim of the current studies was to examine situational constraint in Estonia and Greece: that is, how the cultural dimension of tightness–looseness is manifested in everyday situations in those two countries. The findings of a questionnaire study (Study 1) suggested that, in general, there is higher constraint across everyday situations in Greece than in Estonia, but situational constraint in Greece is especially strong in school and organisational settings where people have hierarchically structured roles. The results of an observational study (Study 2) revealed a relatively high agreement between appropriateness of certain behaviours as judged by the respondents in Study 1 and the frequencies of observed behaviours in the two countries. Our findings suggest that the strength of situations may substantially vary both within and across cultures, and that the attitudes of the members about situational strength in their respective cultures are in concordance with observations of situations by neutral observers in how people in general behave in their culture.

© 2014 International Union of Psychological Science