Apparently Pakistan, Malaysia and India are in much in need of relaxation. A survey that asked 6,823 people across 32 countries what sorts of behavior were okay in different everyday situations scored these three nations the highest on psychological “tightness”—in other words they’re all nations with strong cultural rules and low tolerance for deviation from them. Who’s at the other end of the spectrum? Estonia and Ukraine, nations that appear to have much more of an “anything goes” attitude.
According to the study’s authors (there are 45 of them) all sorts of things can cause cultural rigidity, such as a history of having to compete for scarce resources, having a high population per square mile or facing territorial threats (both India and Pakistan fit the bill on all counts). “Ecological and human-made threats increase the need for strong norms and punishment of deviant behavior in the service of social coordination for survival,” said the paper, which was published in the journal Science on Friday. Uptight countries accept a narrower range of behaviors in everyday situations—like offices, classrooms and other public places. And people who come from these countries are more likely to be cautious and diligent, and worry about not making mistakes, the research found.
Researchers asked participants about 12 behaviors—crying, singing and flirting, for example—and whether it would be appropriate or inappropriate to exhibit them in 15 different situations, such as a job interview, in an elevator, or at a funeral, among others. The research also incorporated historical data into their survey, including population density in the year 1500 and the amount of conflict the country had seen between 1918 and 2001, and looked for correlations with the cultural outlook of the nations.