From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Ethnocentrism is the act of judging another culture based on preconceptions that are found in values and standards of one's own culture.[1][2] Ethnocentric behavior involves judging other groups relative to the preconceptions of one's own ethnic group or culture, especially regarding language, behavior, customs, and religion. These aspects or categories are distinctions that define each ethnicity's unique cultural identity.[3]

William G. Sumner defined ethnocentrism as "the technical name for the view of things in which one's own group is the center of everything, and all others are scaled and rated with reference to it." He further characterized ethnocentrism as often leading to pride, vanity, belief in one's own group's superiority, and contempt for outsiders.[4] These problems may occur from the dividing of societies into in-groups and out-groups.[5] Ethnocentrism is explained in the social sciences and genetics. In anthropology, cultural relativism is used as an antithesis and antonym to ethnocentrism.[6]

Origins of the concept

The term "ethnocentrism" was coined by Ludwig Gumplowicz[7][8] and subsequently employed by William G. Sumner. Gumplowicz defined ethnocentrism as the reasons by virtue of which each group of people believed it had always occupied the highest point not only among contemporaneous peoples and nations but also in relation to all peoples of the historical past[9] (Der Rassenkampf, 1883).


Although central to anthropology, sociology, psychology, and other disciplines the concept of ethnocentrism has been defined and characterized so variously that some scholars have spoken of the "disutility of the ethnocentrism concept" and have wondered whether from the large body of research on ethnocentrism any conclusions could be drawn.[10]

William Graham Sumner proposed two different definitions. In the 1906 Folkways,[11] Sumner stated that "ethnocentrism is the technical name for this view of things in which one's own group is the center of everything, and all others are scaled and rated with reference to it" (13). In the 1911 War and Other Essays,[12] he wrote that "the sentiment of cohesion, internal comradeship, and devotion to the in-group, which carries with it a sense of superiority to any out-group and readiness to defend the interests of the in-group against the out-group, is technically known as ethnocentrism" (11).

Forty years later, anthropologist Richard Adams undertook to clear up a confusion. He noted that one scholar, G.P. Murdock, defined ethnocentrism as "the tendency to exalt the in-group and to depreciate other groups," which made out-group antagonism the inevitable concomitant of in-group solidarity, but that another, M. J. Herkovits, defined ethnocentrism as "the point of view that one's way of life is to be preferred to all others." He pointed out that these were two different attitudes, and that it was important to distinguish them. The first is in-group consciousness, a sense of communal interests found even in sub-human animals, but the second arises from the processes of socialization and enculturation, and has no counterpart among sub-human groups.[13]

In 1996, Robert K. Merton commented that "although the practice of seeing one's own group as the center of things is empirically correlated with a belief in superiority, centrality and superiority need to be kept analytically distinct in order to deal with patterns of alienation from one's membership group and contempt for it."[14]

People raised in a particular culture that absorb the values and behaviors of that culture will develop a worldview that considers their own culture to be the norm.[15][16] If people then experience other cultures that have different values and behaviors, they will find that the thought patterns appropriate to their native culture are not appropriate for the new cultures. However, since people are accustomed to their native culture, it can be difficult for them to see the behaviors of people from a different culture from the viewpoint of that culture rather than from their own.[15][17]

Ethnocentrism can be explicit or implicit. Explicit ethnocentrism involves the ability to express the feelings about outsiders (people from other groups), and implicit ethnocentrism refers to the inhibition of the feelings for outsiders.[18]


Anthropology in the 19th-century had been committed to using evolution as a methodological framework in which European society and culture represented the apex of human development, and all non-European societies and their cultures were described and ranked according to the degree to which they had developed a monotheistic religion, science, technology, and so on. Franz Boas committed himself to overthrowing 19th-century evolutionism, and with his methodological innovations sought to show the error of the proposition that race determined cultural capacity. [19] Boas wrote:

It is somewhat difficult for us to recognize that the value which we attribute to our own civilization is due to the fact that we participate in this civilization, and that it has been controlling all our actions from the time of our birth; but it is certainly conceivable that there may be other civilizations, based perhaps on different traditions and on a different equilibrium of emotion and reason, which are of no less value than ours, although it may be impossible for us to appreciate their values without having grown up under their influence.[20]

Boas and his colleagues promulgated the principle that there are no inferior races or cultures. Cultural relativism in anthropology is a methodological principle, indispensable for investigating and comparing societies in as unprejudiced way as possible without using a developmental scale that is usually irrelevant.[19]

Anthropologists such as Franz Boas and Bronislaw Malinowski argued that any human science had to transcend the ethnocentrism of the scientist. Both urged anthropologists to conduct ethnographic fieldwork in order to overcome their ethnocentrism. Boas developed the principle of cultural relativism where the "context" plays an important role to the understanding of other people's values,[21] and Malinowski developed the theory of functionalism as guides for producing non-ethnocentric studies of different cultures. Classic examples of anti-ethnocentric anthropology include Margaret Mead's Coming of Age in Samoa (1928), Malinowski's The Sexual Life of Savages in North-Western Melanesia (1929), and Ruth Benedict's Patterns of Culture (1934). (Mead and Benedict were two of Boas's students.)

Examples of ethnocentrism include religiocentric constructs claiming a divine association like "divine nation", "God's Own Country", "God's Chosen People", and "God's Promised Land".[6] Although this may be seen as classic examples, a study published by Brill showed that religious attitudes do not effect on negative out-group attitudes.[22]

In Precarious Life, Judith Butler discusses recognizing the Other in order to sustain the Self and the problems of not being able to identify the Other. Butler writes:

Identification always relies upon a difference that it seeks to overcome, and that its aim is accomplished only by reintroducing the difference it claims to have vanquished. The one with whom I identify is not me, and that "not being me" is the condition of the identification. Otherwise, as Jacqueline Rose reminds us, identification collapses into identity, which spells the death of identification itself.[23]

Scholars are generally agreed that Boas developed his revolutionary ideas under the influence of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant. Legend has it that, on a field trip to the Baffin Islands in 1883, Boas would pass the frigid nights reading Kant’s monumental Critique of Pure Reason. In that work, Kant argued that human understanding could not be described according to the laws that applied to the operations of nature, and that its operations were therefore free, not determined, and that ideas regulated human action, sometimes independent of material interests. Following Kant, Boas pointed out, for instance, the starving Eskimos who, because of their religious beliefs,would not hunt seals to feed themselves, thus showing that no pragmatic or material calculus determined their values (The Mind of Primitive Man, New York: Macmillan, 1911:126). [24]

Consumer ethnocentrism

Consumer ethnocentrism refers to the preference of buying products from one's own country with the purpose of protecting the economy and the jobs of people in the country. It involves the brand and quality of the products. In order to measure the levels of a consumer's ethnocentric tendencies, the CETSACALE was created and used for many countries and cultures.[25]


There is no broad consensus as to the cause of ethnocentrism.[26] Various areas of social and biological science have developed theories as to how ethnocentrism works. The social identity approach to psychology suggests that ethnocentricity is caused by a strong identification with one's own culture that links one's self-esteem to a positive view of that culture. It's theorized that in order to maintain that positive view, people make social comparisons that cast competing cultural groups in an unfavorable light.[27]

Research published by PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America) suggested that ethnocentrism may be mediated by the oxytocin hormone. It was found that in randomized controlled trials "oxytocin creates intergroup bias because oxytocin motivates in-group favoritism and, to a lesser extent, out-group derogation".[28]

In The Selfish Gene, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins writes that "Blood-feuds and inter-clan warfare are easily interpretable in terms of Hamilton's genetic theory."[29] Simulation-based experiments in evolutionary game theory have attempted to provide an explanation for the selection of ethnocentric-strategy phenotypes.[30][31]

Realistic conflict theory assumes that ethnocentrism happens due to "real or perceived conflict" in between groups. This also happens with new members of a group where the dominant group may perceive the new ones as a threat.[18]

See also



  1. ^ John T. Omohundro (2008). Thinking like an Anthropologist: A practical introduction to Cultural Anthropology. McGraw Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-319580-3.
  2. ^ Colman, Andrew M. (2006). A dictionary of psychology. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0192806321.
  3. ^ Margaret L. Andersen, Howard Francis Taylor (2006). Sociology: Understanding a Diverse Society. Wadsworth. ISBN 978-0-534-61716-5.
  4. ^ Sumner, W. G. Folkways. New York: Ginn, 1906.
  5. ^ Hammond, Axelrod, Ross A., Robert (December 2006). "The Evolution of Ethnocentrism". Journal of Conflict Resolution. 50 (6): 926–936. doi:10.1177/0022002706293470.
  6. ^ a b William A. Haviland; Harald E. L. Prins; Dana Walrath; Bunny McBride (2009). The Essence of Anthropology. Cengage Learning. p. 159. ISBN 978-0-495-59981-4.
  7. ^ Naturalism in Sociology of the Turn of the Century (by Alexander Hofman and Alexander Kovalev) // A History of Classical Sociology. Ed. by Igor Kon. Moscow, 1989, p. 84. ISBN 5-01-001102-6
  8. ^ Boris Bizumic (Research School of Psychology, the Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia). Who Coined the Concept of Ethnocentrism? A Brief Report // Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 2014, Vol. 2(1), doi:10.5964/jspp.v2i1.264
  9. ^ Louis Gumplowicz. La lutte des races. Recherches sociologiques (Guillaumin et Cie., Paris, 1893), p 349. (Cited from: Naturalism in Sociology of the Turn of the Century (by Alexander Hofman and Alexander Kovalev) // A History of Classical Sociology. Ed. by Igor Kon. Moscow, 1989, p. 84. ISBN 5-01-001102-6)
  10. ^ Boris Bizumic and John Duckitt, "What Is and Is Not Ethnocentrism? A Conceptual Analysis and Political Implications," Political Psychology, Vol. 33, No. 6 (DECEMBER 2012), pp. 887-909 JSTOR 23324197
  11. ^ Sumner, William Graham (20 November 2018). "Folkways: A Study of the Sociological Importance of Usages, Manners, Customs, Mores, and Morals". Ginn – via Google Books.
  12. ^ Sumner, William Graham (20 November 2018). "War, and Other Essays". Yale University Press – via Google Books.
  13. ^ Richard N. Adams,"Ethnocentrism and Ingroup Consciousness," American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 53, No. 4, Part 1 (Oct. - Dec., 1951), pp.598-600. JSTOR 664284
  14. ^ Robert King Merton (1996). Piotr Sztompka, ed. On social structure and science. University of Chicago Press. p. 248. ISBN 978-0-226-52070-4.
  15. ^ a b Seidner, Stanley S. (1982). Ethnicity, Language, and Power from a Psycholinguistic Perspective. Bruxelles: Centre de Recherche sur le Plurilinguisme. OCLC 51685367.
  16. ^ Gelfand, Michele (2015). "The Inevitability of Ethnocentrism Revisited: Ethnocentrism Diminishes As Mobility Increases". Scientific Reports. 5: 17963. doi:10.1038/srep17963. PMC 4672305. PMID 26644192 – via PMC.
  17. ^ Barger, Ken (February 14, 2018). "Ethnocentrism". Indiana University Indianapolis.
  18. ^ a b Darity, William A. (2008). Ethnocentrism." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. Macmillan Reference USA. ISBN 978-0028661179.
  19. ^ a b Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Small Places, Large Issues: An Introduction to Social and Cultural Anthropology, 4th edition, London: Pluto Press, 2015, pp.10-18
  20. ^ The Mind of Primitive Man, New York: Macmillan. 1911:207
  21. ^ Howson, Alexandra (2009). "Cultural Relativism" (PDF): 1, 2 – via EBSCO.
  22. ^ Capucao, Dave (2010). Religion and Ethnocentrism: An Empirical-theological Study. Brill. p. 247. ISBN 9789004184701.
  23. ^ Butler, Judith (2004). Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. New York: Verso. pp. 145–146. ISBN 9781844675449. Retrieved 12 April 2014.
  24. ^ Janine Hitchens, “Critical Implications of Franz Boas’ Theory and Methodology,” Dialectical Anthropology, 19 (1994), p. 244. JSTOR 29790560
  25. ^ Shimp, Terence; Sharma, Shubhash (1987). "Consumer Ethnocentrism: Construction and Validation of the CETSCALE" (PDF). Journal of Marketing Research. 24 (3): 280–289. CiteSeerX doi:10.2307/3151638. JSTOR 3151638.
  26. ^ Forbes, H.D. (2013). ""Prejudice." Encyclopedia of Race and Racism". CREDO.
  27. ^ Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. (2001). An integrative theory of intergroup conflict. In M. A. Hogg & D. Abrams (Eds.), Key readings in social psychology. Intergroup relations: Essential readings (pp. 94-109). New York, NY, US: Psychology Press.
  28. ^ De Dreu, C. K. W.; Greer, L. L.; Van Kleef, G. A.; Shalvi, S.; Handgraaf, M. J. J. (2011). "Oxytocin promotes human ethnocentrism". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 108 (4): 1262–1266. doi:10.1073/pnas.1015316108. PMC 3029708. PMID 21220339.
  29. ^ Dawkins, Richard (2006). The selfish gene. Oxford University Press. p. 99. ISBN 978-0-19-929115-1.
  30. ^ Hammond, R. A.; Axelrod, R. (2006). "The Evolution of Ethnocentrism". Journal of Conflict Resolution. 50 (6): 926–936. doi:10.1177/0022002706293470.
  31. ^ Max Hartshorn, Artem Kaznatcheev and Thomas Shultz, "The Evolutionary Dominance of Ethnocentric Cooperation" Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, 30 June 2013

Further reading

  • Ankerl, G. Coexisting Contemporary Civilizations: Arabo-Muslim, Bharati, Chinese, and Western. Geneva: INU PRESS, 2000, ISBN 2-88155-004-5
  • Kinder, Donald R.; Kam, Cindy D. (2009): US against THEM. Ethnocentric foundations of American opinion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226435717.
  • Martineau, H. (1838). "How to Observe Morals and manners". Charles Knight and Co., London.
  • Reynolds, V., Falger, V., & Vine, I. (Eds.) (1987). The Sociobiology of Ethnocentrism. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press.
  • Salter, F. K., ed. 2002. Risky Transactions. Trust, Kinship, and Ethnicity. Oxford and New York: Berghahn.
  • van den Berghe, P. L. (1981). The ethnic phenomenon. Westport, CT: Praeger.
  • Wade, Nicholas, "Depth of the Kindness Hormone Appears to Know Some Bounds," New York Times, 10 January 2011.

External links

  • Group Processes and Intergroup Relations
  • For more related maps, select "Ethnocentrism" subject at the Persuasive Cartography, The PJ Mode Collection, Cornell University Library
Retrieved from ""
This content was retrieved from Wikipedia :
This page is based on the copyrighted Wikipedia article "Ethnocentrism"; it is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA). You may redistribute it, verbatim or modified, providing that you comply with the terms of the CC-BY-SA