Ethnocentricity: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 What Is Ethnocentricity?
  • 1:16 Pros and Cons of…
  • 2:03 Characteristics of…
  • 2:51 Examples of Ethnocentricity
  • 3:28 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Ethnocentricity is the belief that your own cultural or ethnic group is superior to that of another. Learn more about ethnocentricity from examples. Then, test your knowledge with a quiz.

What Is Ethnocentricity?

Sarah is a 33-year-old accounts manager at a mid-size international marketing firm. During her company's summer picnic, she is introduced to Ayanna, who has just moved to the United States from a small village in Africa. Ayanna and Sarah have a conversation about their families, during which Ayanna tells Sarah about some of her customs and traditions, all of which Sarah finds barbaric. Sarah is further taken back when she hears how Ayanna gave birth to her children outside instead of in a hospital with doctors and state-of-the-art equipment. Sarah concludes that Ayanna and her customs are weird, unsafe, and not as civilized as Sarah's. This is an example of ethnocentricity.

The term 'ethnocentricity' originated with William Sumner. Ethnocentricity refers to a belief that your culture or ethnic group is superior to another's. Ethnocentric individuals are biased in that they draw conclusions about other cultural groups based on their own cultural values, norms, and traditions. Ethnocentric individuals use their own ethnic groups as the standard by which they judge other cultures.

Pros and Cons of Ethnocentricity

All cultural groups have some degree of ethnocentricity, as it is necessary for the group to exist. This is because ethnocentricity promotes cohesion in groups, community pride, and group identification. On the other hand, ethnocentricity prevents individuals from truly understanding other cultures. There will always be some aspect of another culture that we might find objectionable, whether it be birthing practices such as in Sarah's case, or simply the way they dress. Too much ethnocentricity can lead to several problems. For example, ethnocentric individuals often make incorrect assumptions about others. Ethnocentricity also contributes to racism, stereotypes, and prejudice.

Characteristics of Ethnocentric Individuals

Individuals who are highly ethnocentric identify strongly with their ethnic or cultural group. They also have a strong sense of pride, vanity, and superiority about their ethnic or cultural group. They tend to examine economic, political, and social events solely from the viewpoint of their own group. They believe that their culture is the only correct one, and they also believe that their cultural norms should apply to everyone. Ethnocentric individuals may reject or fail to acknowledge other cultural and ethnic groups. They may also hold the belief that some aspects of other cultures are unusual and wrong. Ethnocentric individuals may even develop xenophobia, which is an intense fear or hatred of people from a different racial or ethnic background, or nationality.

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