Definition of Ethnocentrism: Causal Factors, and Impacts!

Definition of Ethnocentrism – Of course you often hear the terms ethnocentric or ethnocentrism, or even often appear in social situations. Launching from the Oxford Bibliographies , Monday (20/6/2022), the notion of ethnocentrism is a term applied in culture or ethnicity when an individual views the world from the perspective of his own group. Meanwhile, according to the Big Indonesian Dictionary (KBBI), the notion of ethnocentrism is an attitude or view that stems from its own society and culture.

Usually, ethnocentrism is accompanied by attitudes and views that belittle other societies and cultures. William Graham Sumner, a Yale University Professor of Political and Social Sciences, was the first to introduce the term ethnocentric in 1906.

While ethnocentrism is arguably a universal phenomenon that facilitates cohesion and continuity at all levels of social organization, it provides a rationalization for attacking other cultures or subcultures in its more extreme forms, for example motivating the criminalization of practices within a subculture or being used to justify war with other nation states.

Ethnocentrism is closely related to the deviant definition of a person who is not only seen as different, but also morally inferior or even evil. Stereotype members within their group against those outside the group as stupid, bad, or even dehumanizing and these characterizations provide the basis for cultural conflict.

Etymology and Definition of Ethnocentrism

The definition of Ethnocentrism is an assessment of other cultures on the basis of social values ​​and own cultural standards. Ethnocentric people judge other groups relative to their own group or culture, especially when it comes to language, behavior, customs, and religion. These ethnic differences and divisions define the distinctive cultural identity of each ethnic group. Ethnocentrism may be visible or invisible, and although it is considered a natural tendency of human psychology, it has negative connotations in society.

Ethnocentrism is a practice of looking at or judging other people’s culture based on one’s own values ​​or beliefs. This term comes from the Greek ” ethnos “, which means nation, and ” kentron “, which means center. Therefore, ethnocentrism involves the nation to become a center. Ethnocentrism focuses on the behavior of applying one’s own culture or ethnicity as a reference for assessing people’s culture, practices, behavior, beliefs. In the social sciences, ethnocentrism judges other cultures based on one’s own cultural standards, not the standards of another particular culture.

The tendency of ethnocentrism is to see our culture as the center of the universe, namely as a true reality that influences all intercultural communication, including inter-ethnic relations. This can be seen clearly in the definition of ethnocentrism.

Porter and Samovar (1997:10) state that the main source of cultural differences in attitudes is ethnocentrism, namely the tendency to view other people unconsciously by using our own group and our own habits as criteria for all judgments. The more we have in common with them, the closer they are to us; the greater the dissimilarity, the farther they are from us.

We tend to see our group, our country, our own culture, as the best, as the most moral. This view demands our first allegiance and creates a frame of reference that denies the existence of any other frame of reference. This view is an absolute position that raises another position from its proper place for other cultures.

Ethnocentrism is the judgment of a group of people against the culture of other groups of people by comparing or using their own cultural standards. ” Is Judging other cultures by comparison with one’s own ” (Giddens, 1986).

Ethnocentrism is also cultural egoism. A community considers itself the most superior among others. Better self-assessment of culture. ” Our own groups, our own country, our own culture as the best, as the most moral ” (Porter, 1972). So, all judgments depart from the size of one’s own culture, causing what is best is one’s own culture while other people’s cultures are inferior, as is the case with stereotypes which are misguided judgments, ethnocentrism can be called a blind judgment, “using our own group and our own. ” customs as the standards for all judgments ” (Samovar and Porter, 1991). This brings wide consequences and influences in acts of communication.

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Definition of Ethnocentrism According to Experts

1. Coleman and Cressey

Ethnocentrism is someone who comes from an ethnic group who tends to see their culture as the best compared to other cultural traits.

2. Hoggs

Ethnocentrism is an activity that involves internal and external attributions in people’s lives.

3. Taylor, Peplau, and Sears

Ethnocentrism is something that refers to the belief of a group of people that their culture is always superior to other cultures.

4. Hariyono

Hariyono gives meaning to the term ethnocentrism as a feeling of being in group and out group on the basis of one’s attitude.

5. Harris

Ethnocentrism is the tendency for someone to think that their group is better than other groups so that this encourages irrational actions, such as committing violence, war, brawls, and so on.

6. Zestrow

Ethnocentrism is an attitude that is carried out by ethnic groups in private without considering the conditions of other social groups.

7. Levine and Campbell

Ethnocentrism is the view of certain groups that come from one culture to judge other cultures that have social values ​​that are different from their culture.


Ethnocentrism is the view that one’s own group is the center of everything and all other groups are compared and judged according to the group’s standards. In this case everything is assessed based on the perspective of the individual culture concerned.


Ethnocentrism is an attitude that considers one’s culture or sense of self to be better than others.

Aspects in Ethnocentrism

The aspects of ethnocentrism are as follows.

  • Every society always has a number of characteristics of social life that can be hypothesized as a syndrome.
  • Ethnocentrism syndromes are functionally related to the composition and existence of groups and competition between groups.
  • There is a generalization that all groups show the syndrome such as the safe intra group and disdain for the outside group.
  • Physical (biological) differences. environmental differences (geographical), differences in wealth (social status), differences in beliefs. and differences in social norms.

Ethnocentrism Factors

1. History

Historically, ethnocentrism can be triggered. When individuals have a close connection with family history in the past regarding an event of identity development, then they will feel they belong to that culture. These various identities are in the form of language, habits, to past events that come from our ancestors.

2. Multiculturalism

This ethnocentrism will occur when the conditions of the social environment are diverse and noisy, of course, sometimes a feeling arises to make comparisons that lead to conflict. This is caused by the occurrence of several cultures meet each other.

3. Political Situation

Ethnocentrism will arise from the thoughts of a person or with a group to achieve a legitimized power. Usually there will be a feeling of fanaticism towards the identity attached to him. This happens because politics is often considered one of the right places to advance personal and group interests.

4. Loyalty

Ethnocentrism will arise when a strong culture makes individuals who are in a group have a deeper sense of loyalty and are more inclined to follow norms and develop relationships with related members.

5. Social Distancing

Social distance is another aspect of social prejudice that shows the level of one’s acceptance of others in the relationships that occur between them. Social distance is a feeling of separating a certain person or group based on a certain level of acceptance.

6. Social Prejudice

Prejudice is a negative attitude directed at someone on the basis of comparison with one’s own group. Such an attitude can be said to be an attitude that hinders the effectiveness of communication between communicators and communicants who, for example, have different ethnicities.

7. Stereotypes

Stereotype is a person’s belief in other people (because it is influenced by knowledge and experience). This belief makes us estimate differences between groups that may be too high or too low as a characteristic of a person or group.

Types of Ethnocentrism

Ethnocentrism is of two types as follows.

  • Flexible ethnocentrism is defined as the way a person can learn how to properly control the ego and perceptions. In facing the reality of the world, where there are many tribes and groups, objective efforts are still made when looking at someone from another group.
  • In contrast to flexible, inflexible ethnocentrism is explained as a form of someone who cannot understand people from other groups who have different cultural backgrounds. Those with intolerance only judge subjectively and based on habits in the group.

Example of Ethnocentrism

In everyday life, especially in relationships, ethnocentrism still occurs frequently, either consciously or unconsciously. For example, bullying, ridiculing or avoiding friends who come from eastern Indonesia, such as Papua, only because of their black skin and curly or curly hair.

The phenomenon of ethnocentrism also occurs in big cities, such as Yogyakarta. As a multicultural city, there are many immigrants from all over the archipelago with different cultural backgrounds, each bringing interests and values ​​from their respective regions. The concern that sometimes arises is the presence of primordial sentiments (excessive feelings of ethnicity) and ethnocentricity.

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For example, students who come from Medan (Batak tribe) will always insist on their stance and attitude who call themselves a person who is firm, opinionated, and rude (rude in the sense of being firm). Malay people are said to be shy, religious, and feel more acceptable wherever they are. The Javanese people, as a result of the influence of the New Order, considered themselves the most advanced of other regions, so that when dealing with people outside Java, the stigma that was formed was negative stigma such as being lazy, rude, and rebellious.

In addition to everyday life, ethnocentrism also applies on a larger scale to certain groups. In the interior Papuan tribes who have the habit of using “Koteka”. If this is seen from the point of view of non-Papuan people in the interior, wearing a koteka might be considered a shameful thing. However, for residents of the interior of Papua, wearing a koteka is considered normal and a matter of pride.

Carok culture is a culture that originates from Madura, is the behavior of defending self-esteem by hurting the people involved. Carok in Madurese society is a sacred concept and must be upheld by Madurese people. The ongoing conflict between the Dayak and Madurese tribes has not yet emerged.

Impact of Ethnocentrism

In a multicultural society, ethnocentrism can lead to misunderstandings of other people’s cultures. Misunderstandings can occur especially regarding things that are considered sacred to a society. Deviant behavior that can arise is anger and stereotypes towards other people’s cultures. Conversely, ethnocentrism can strengthen the cultural elements of a society.

The existence of views on cultural differences can strengthen the unity of people in other cultures. Strong solidarity will be created without criticism of one’s own ethnicity or national group accompanied by prejudice against other national groups.

Conflicts that arise due to ethnocentrism are more due to differences in understanding with other cultures. The tendency that occurs is to judge the culture of other nations to be seen as lower than their own culture. Therefore, ethnocentrism has the opportunity to hinder the harmony of inter-ethnic interaction and communication.

1. The Negative Impact of Ethnocentrism

a. Causing Horizontal Conflicts

Being proud of one’s own culture and looking down on other cultures can trigger conflict among fellow citizens. Especially if the understanding of ethnocentrism is not only attached to an individual.

b. Hindering the Process of Assimilation and Cultural Integration

Cultural assimilation is a social process in the form of direct and intensive interaction over a long period of time with different cultural backgrounds, from this process a mixed cultural element is formed between these groups.

Cultural integration is a process of adjusting several different types of culture so as to achieve conformity and harmony. If ethnocentrism grows, then of course it will not be possible to achieve.

c. Lowering the Objectivity of Science

Ethnocentrism can reduce the development of science. Because, an individual will prioritize the side of subjectivity compared to objectivity in assessing something.

2. The Positive Impact of Ethnocentrism

a. Fostering the Spirit of Patriotism

When an individual understands ethnocentrism, he will automatically have a strong soul to defend his identity. This is generally referred to as patriotism.

b. Increasing Love for Own Culture

Ethnocentrism is needed in order to create a complete sense of knowing and owning a culture. With an attitude of ethnocentrism, culture can be maintained, because now it is vulnerable to being crushed by the processes of globalism and modernization.

c. Maintaining the Integrity of Multiculturalism in the Country

The next positive impact is being able to maintain multiculturalism as the identity of a nation. This is because Indonesia is nothing but a different philosophy, but still one.

Ethnocentrism Prevention Solutions

Ethnocentrism occurs because of socio-cultural problems. Therefore, the solutions that can be taken are as follows.

  • Revive the local wisdom of the community.
  • Instill multiculturalism.
  • Filter the culture that enters Indonesia according to Pancasila.
  • Instill a spirit of nationalism.
  • Reducing excessive fanaticism.
  • Be tolerant.
  • Growing empathy.
  • Fostering an inclusive attitude


The definition of Ethnocentrism is an understanding that considers their group is better than other groups. There are several levels in Ethnocentrism, including positive, negative, and very negative. Of the three levels, the worst level is the very negative level because it ignores positive things from other groups and deifies its group as the best group, often causing widespread and problematic conflicts.

This understanding of ethnocentrism is one of the obstacles in cross-cultural communication, that by being ethnocentrism one cannot view cultural differences as the uniqueness of each culture that should be respected. By viewing one’s own culture as superior and other foreign cultures as “wrong” cultures, effective cross-cultural communication is just wishful thinking

This is because a person tends to limit the communication he makes and as much as possible does not get involved with foreign cultures that are different or conflict with his own culture. Culture can be in the form of language as a symbol of a tribe or ethnicity.