If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Ethnocentrism and cultural relativism in group and out group

Video transcript

- [Voiceover] Okay, so you go over to a friend's house and you get served up a plate of crispy fried insects. How do you respond to this? How you respond really depends on whether you normally eat crispy fried insects or not. Is it part of your culture to have this dish? If it isn't, let us think of the different ways in which you can react. One of the ways you can react is to say, "Oh, my gosh, this is disgusting! "This is wrong, I don't want anything to do with this." One of the things that we're doing here is that we're judging your friend's culture from the position of your own culture. What's the alternative way that we can actually judge a situation? One of the other things we can say is, "Yeah, you know what? "I can see why he likes this dish." It might not be for me, but I can see why he likes it. What are we doing here? We are actually, again, assessing and judging our friend's culture, but from a different viewpoint. We're judging and understanding their culture from within their culture. These different perspectives outlined ... That's why I drew this semicircle that you can see here, because, really, how we view these fried insects, how we view them is down to our own, the kind of cultural perspective that we take. These different cultural perspectives actually have their own terms. One term that I want, if we're going to judge another person's culture from our own culture, and really say things like, this is disgusting, this is right or this is wrong, whether it's to do with food, religion, politics, or any customs or rituals, or anything else, what we're doing is we're becoming very ethnocentric. What being ethnocentric means is that we are really judging our own culture to be superior to that of others. On the opposite side, as we start to look at cultural events, whether it's the food or any other cultural event, or cultural phenomenon, from a perspective of the other person's culture, we start to move into the concept of cultural relativism. What cultural relativism means, is that there's no right, absolute right or wrong, but we have different cultures who are themselves valid. Cultural relativism can somewhat falter if someone uses it to conduct activities that really violate the rights and dignity of our fellow human beings, no matter what culture they are in or from. That's something important for us to also consider. Now, based on our insect dish, I want to talk to you a little bit about groups. What I want to do is talk to you about groups by mentioning ... I want to talk to you about groups and how groups are formed. So, let us take this first group over here. This group will think that insects are pests and they're not to be eaten. Let's draw a few different people that could be part of this group. The second group really thinks of insects as dinner. Let's draw a few of them over here. The reason why groups form is that people within groups share some kind of psychological connection with their peers, so that could be related to their love of insect dishes or it could be related to politics, it could be related to spirituality, any other cultural issues. It could relate to anything at all, in fact. Let us label these groups. If we are actually in this group ourselves, let's label this "Us" and let's label the dinner group "Them." Let's use some more formal titles. Instead of saying "Us" we can actually refer to this as the "in" group, the group that we are in, and the group that we are kind of psychologically most connected with. "Them" becomes something called the "out" group. What we know is that people in the "in" group demonstrate a lot stronger interactions than people who are in the "out" group, then their interactions with people who are in a different, in the "out," so these interactions are weaker. The other thing is that not only are these interactions stronger, or more common, but they may potentially be more influential as well. But certain funny things can kind of happen in groups. One of the things that can happen is we can have something happen called in group favoritism. What do I mean by that? In in group favoritism, we tend to favor people who are in our group, who share whatever this psychological attribute is that we feel connected to. In this circumstance, we are very friendly towards the people in our "in" group. But what about the people outside? What about the "Them," the "out" group? What do we do towards them? With the people in the "out" group, we are actually dead set neutral. We don't extend them the favor. We don't go out of our way to help. We're not nasty or horrible or unkind, we just don't give them the favors that we do to our "in" group. Now, there's another phenomenon where we might be a little bit nastier to the "out" group, and that's called out group derogation. In out group derogation what we find is that, again, we are super-friendly and super-nice to our "in" group, but when it comes to the "out" group, we are not so friendly. We're actually mean. We might actually discriminate. This tends to happen, out group derogation can actually happen if we feel that the "out" group is in some way threatening to undermine or stop our "in" group from achieving success. One last thing I wanted to mention is the idea of group polarization. This is a phenomenon where the decision-making machine, that is the group, makes decisions that are more extreme than any of the individual members would be inclined to make. The group's opinions and actions and decision-making may actually become more extreme than what their individual members wanted. This can effectively turbo charge any of these other processes that are going on, and also turbo charge the groups' viewpoints. For example, if the group thinks insects are pests, are they going to set up a fumigation society for the local neighborhood? I mean, I'm saying that in jest, but, you know, I hope the point is made.