Ethnocentrism in Sociology: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:02 What Is Ethnocentrism?
  • 1:21 Ethnocentrism Can Be Harmful
  • 2:12 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Juli Yelnick

Juli has traveled the world engaging in cultural immersion experiences that bring her Master of Liberal Studies findings to light.

Have you ever taken a first look at someone different than you and immediately thought, 'He's a bad guy,' or 'I don't like him,' even though you had no specific reason? Sure, you don't have to like everyone you meet; however, if you assign a negative label to anyone different from you without reason, then ethnocentrism might be at play!

What Is Ethnocentrism?

Because each individual is born into a certain cultural environment, he or she develops a specific idea of what 'normal' is. The people around you as you grow up will shape your perceptions of what people should look like and how they should behave. What color skin, hair, and eyes people have; what language they speak; what foods they eat; and what religion they practice all become ingrained in your mind, whether you know it or not. Ethnocentrism is the belief that your own cultural or ethnic group is superior to other cultural or ethnic groups.

We tell our children to be the best students and athletes they can be. We adults want to belong to the best clubs and have the best jobs, homes, and cars possible. Generally speaking, everyone wants to be the best. So, what's wrong with believing that your own culture is the best? To a certain degree, it's natural and normal to like and accept what you see around you while growing up and to pattern your own behaviors and attitudes in a similar fashion. However, if you find that you think less of other cultural groups, and individuals in those groups, just because they can't possibly be as good as you if they aren't in your group, then ethnocentrism has arrived.

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