What Are Sociocentrism and Ethnocentrism?

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Sociocentrism and ethnocentrism both revolve around a person’s belief that someone’s social or ethnic group is superior to others. Sociocentrism also means putting a group’s needs and concerns ahead of someone’s personal needs. An individual with these beliefs tends to judge other groups relative to his or her own culture as it relates to language, religion, family structure and behavior.

Examples of ethnocentric and sociocentric thoughts include believing someone’s sports team is greater than others simply for geographic reasons, claiming someone’s religion is the one true system that all others should follow, and rationalizing that someone deserves support even when that person is lying. These beliefs often materialize due to a person’s family ties or emotional connections or simply to familiarity. Sometimes, persistent ethnocentric and sociocentric beliefs are irrational even to the point that no one else can rationalize the concept.

The term ethnocentrism was coined by William G. Sumner upon observing the behavior of people who differentiate between one group and another. Sumner concluded that ethnocentrism often leads to vanity, pride and contempt of outsiders. Sumner noted that collective beliefs of ethnocentrism include national pride in which a country’s inhabitants espouse a notion that their country is better than others. This happens slowly over time as ethnocentric concepts become naturalized when citizens intrinsically think their country supersedes all others.