How Does Ethnocentrism Affect Societies?

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Societies experience the effects of ethnocentrism when citizens have a distinct set of cultural norms and customs, and view traditions and practices used by other people around the world as inferior, odd or abnormal. People living in one place, such as a nation or region, typically adopt certain behaviors, languages, customs and even dress code. Those people living in proximity follow those customs, and judge the actions and traditions of others based on the similarity or difference of those customs.

Ethnocentrism is essentially a group act that involves making false assumptions about or stigmatizing differences in other cultures. Ethnocentrism may focus on trivial elements, such as facial expressions and posture. It may include making judgments on entire nations or just segments of populations.

Ethnocentrism exists virtually everywhere, including the United States. An example of American ethnocentrism, for instance, exists in the differences of driving rules governing driving in Britain and the U.S. Americans drive on the right-hand side of the road, while British drivers drive on the left. In expressing this difference, Americans might say that British drivers drive on the “wrong” side of the road.

Ethnocentric thought patterns often become ingrained in cultures. These patterns then lead to societal judgments of others, causing entire nations to develop preconceived notions and expectations of others. These behaviors ultimately hinder communications among people, and cause entire societies to view themselves as superior to others.