The Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity The Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS) was created by Dr. Milton Bennett (1986, 1993) as a framework to explain the reactions of people to cultural difference. In both academic and corporate settings, he observed that individuals confronted cultural difference in some predictable ways as they learned to became more competent intercultural communicators. Using concepts from cognitive psychology and constructivism, he organized these observations into six stages of increasing sensitivity to cultural difference. The underlying assumption of the model is that as one’s experience of cultural difference becomes more complex and sophisticated, one’s competence in intercultural relations increases. Each stage indicates a particular cognitive structure that is expressed in certain kinds of attitudes and behavior related to cultural difference. By recognizing the underlying cognitive orientation toward cultural difference, predictions about behavior and attitudes can be made and education can be tailored to facilitate development into the next stage. The first three DMIS stages are ethnocentric, meaning that one’s own culture is experienced as central to reality in some way: Denial of cultural difference is the state in which one’s own culture is experienced as the only real one. Other cultures are avoided by maintaining psychological and/or physical isolation from differences. People at Denial generally are disinterested in cultural difference, although they may act aggressively to eliminate a difference if it impinges on them. Defense against cultural difference is the state in which one’s own culture (or an adopted culture) is experienced as the only good one. The world is organized into “us and them,” where “we” are superior and “they” are inferior. People at Defense are threatened by cultural difference, so they tend to be highly critical of other cultures, regardless of
References: Bennett, M.J. (1986). A developmental approach to training for intercultural sensitivity. International Journal of Intercultural Relations 10 (2), 17995. Bennett, M.J. (1993). Towards ethnorelativism: A developmental model of intercultural sensitivity. In M. Paige (Ed.), Education for the intercultural experience. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press.