Theories of Ethnocentrism: Social Dominance Theory and Social Identity Perspective

Topics: Sociology, Social identity, Discrimination Pages: 19 (6073 words) Published: February 26, 2010
Theories of Ethnocentrism: Social Dominance Theory and Social Identity Perspective Compare and Contrast critically evaluate in light of relevant research and theoretical reasoning

A major focus of psychology is in understanding why group conflict, inequality and ethnocentrism occur. Many researchers have developed theories and presented evidence to try and explain these issues and two predominant approaches have emerged. The first approach focuses on the relatively stable personality differences that people show in their general orientation towards ethnocentrism and inequality (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999). Social Dominance Theory (SDT) proposes that people exhibit different levels of social dominance orientation, a desire to dominate members of other groups and a desire for continued hierarchical relations between groups (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999). The alternative approach focuses on social and situational factors as causes of ethnocentrism. The dominant theory here is Social Identity Perspective (SIP), which is comprised of Social Identity Theory (SIT) (Tajfel & Turner, 1986) and Self-Categorization Theory (SCT) (Oakes, Haslam & Turner, 1994). Social Identity Perspective proposes that ethnocentrism occurs when people are depersonalized: they see themselves as members of a salient group rather than unique individuals. This process leads them to adopt a social identity where their ideas, attitudes, values and behaviours tend to reflect norms of their group and their main goal is to see their group as positive and distinct (Turner, 1987). This essay will consider how these approaches define ethnocentrism and will provide an outline of how they explain ethnocentrism. It will then compare and contrast the theories, and consider the strengths and limitations of each with reference to the large body of research in this field. In light of the limitations of viewing ethnocentrism as due to a relatively stable, individual disposition to inequality, the essay concludes that SIP provides a more complete explanation. However, researchers need to consider whether ethnocentrism is due to an interaction of situationally dependent personality factors and social identity factors for a more comprehensive explanation of ethnocentrism. Ethnocentrism

Sumner (1911) originally defined ethnocentrism as “…the sediment of cohesion, internal comradeship and devotion to the in-group, which carries with it a sense of superiority to any out-group and readiness to defend the interests of the in-group against the out-group” (p.11). Recent research has defined ethnocentrism as ethnic group self-centeredness and identified six specific aspects that are divided between inter and intragroup expressions (Bizumic, Duckitt, Popadic, Dru & Krauss, 2008). Intergroup expressions of ethnocentrism include a preference for and favoritism given to the ingroup, a tendency to see the ingroup as superior and to only associate with the ingroup (purity) and the belief that exploitation of outgroups is acceptable to promote ingroup interests (Bizumic et al, 2008). Intragroup aspects include that ingroups are cohesive: integrated and cooperative, and that there is strong devotion and commitment to the ingroup (Bizumic et al, 2008). The two theories define and measure ethnocentrism in different ways. SDT emphasizes ingroup favoritism and bias in high status groups, and the allocation of negative social value to outgroups (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999). Ethnocentrism is measured through levels of prejudice, racism, conservatism and other associated concepts, which, although distinct from ethnocentrism, are closely correlated (Bizumic et al, 2008). SIP measures ethnocentrism primarily through ingroup favoritism: the tendency to favor the ingroup in evaluations and allocation of resources (Oaks et al, 1994).

Social Dominance Theory
SDT was developed by Sidanius and Pratto (1999) and focuses on personality and structural factors as causes of...

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