We propose a simple parameterization of the transition between dislocation creep and grain-size-sensitive creep under conditions characteristic of the lithospheric mantle and derived from the results of laboratory experiments on olivine-rich rocks. Through numerical modeling and linear stability analysis, we determine the conditions under which this transition takes place and potentially leads to strain localization. We pay particular attention to the effect of cooling rate and strain rate which are likely to be dominant parameters in actively deforming tectonic areas. We conclude that at constant temperature, strain localization can only take place if the rheology of the material is nonlinearly related to grain size; that strain localization is facilitated by syndeformation cooling; that there is only a narrow region in the strain rate versus cooling rate parameter space where localization is likely to take place; and that grain growth inhibits strain localization at fast cooling rates but may lead to “grain growth localization” at low cooling rates. We draw attention to the potential consequences of our analysis of strain localization for the style of plate motions at the Earth's surface.