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ethnocentrism, the feeling that one's group has a mode of living, values, and patterns of adaptation that are superior to those of other groups. It is coupled with a generalized contempt for members of other groups. Ethnocentrism may manifest itself in attitudes of superiority or sometimes hostility. Violence, discrimination, proselytizing, and verbal aggressiveness are other means whereby ethnocentrism may be expressed.
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- the attitude of prejudice or mistrust towards outsiders which may exist within a social group; a way of perceiving one's own cultural group (in-group) in relation to others (out-groups). The term was introduced by W. G. SUMNER (1906) and involves the belief that one's own group is the most important, or is culturally superior to other groups. Thus, one's own culture is considered to be racially, morally and culturally of greater value or significance than that of others, and one becomes distrustful of those defined as outsiders. It also involves an incapacity to acknowledge that cultural differentiation does not imply the inferiority of those groups who are ethnically distinct from one's own.
- a characteristic of certain personality types. The ethnocentric personality is described by T Adorno et al. (1950) in The Authoritarian Personality (see AUTHORITARIAN PERSONALITY). Initially this study was concerned with the social and psychological aspects of anti-Semitism, but developed into a study of its more general correlates. Adorno et al. were concerned with explaining attitudes towards other ‘out-groups’ in American society, such as homosexuals and ethnic minorities, and maintained that antagonism towards one ‘out-group’ (e.g. Jews) seldom existed in isolation. They found that ethnocentrism tended to be associated with authoritarianism, dogmatism and rigidity, political and economic conservatism, and an implicit anti-democratic ideology. Thus, hostility towards one ‘out-group’ (see IN-GROUP AND OUT-GROUP) was often generalized and projected onto other ‘out-groups’. See also PREJUDICE, DISCRIMINATION, RACISM OR RACIALISM, ATTITUDE, ATTITUDE SCALE.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000