Ethnocentrism is judging another culture solely by the values and standards of one's own culture.[page needed] Ethnocentric individuals judge other groups relative to their own ethnic group or culture, especially with concern for language, behavior, customs, and religion. These ethnic distinctions and subdivisions serve to define each ethnicity's unique cultural identity. Ethnocentrism may be overt or subtle, and while it is considered a natural proclivity of human psychology, it has developed a generally negative connotation.
William G. Sumner coined the term "ethnocentrism" upon observing the tendency for people to differentiate between the in-group and others. He defined it as "the technical name for the view of things in which one's own group is the center of everything, and all others are scaled and rated with reference to it." He further characterized it as often leading to pride, vanity, beliefs of one's own group's superiority, and contempt of outsiders.Robert K. Merton comments that Sumner's additional characterization robbed the concept of some analytical power because, Merton argues, centrality and superiority are often correlated, but need to be kept analytically distinct.
People born into a particular culture that grow up absorbing the values and behaviors of the culture will develop a worldview that considers their culture to be the norm. If people then experience other cultures that have different values and normal behaviors, they will find that the thought patterns appropriate to their birth culture and the meanings their birth culture attaches to behaviors are not appropriate for the new cultures. However, since people are accustomed to their birth culture, it can be difficult for them to see the behaviors of people from a different culture from the viewpoint of that culture rather than from their own.
In Precarious Life, Judith Butler discusses recognizing the Other in order to sustain the Self and the problems of not being able to identify the Other. Butler writes:
[I]dentification always relies upon a difference that it seeks to overcome, and that its aim is accomplished only by reintroducing the difference it claims to have vanquished. The one with whom I identify is not me, and that "not being me" is the condition of the identification. Otherwise, as Jacqueline Rose reminds us, identification collapses into identity, which spells the death of identification itself.
A 2011 paper in PNAS suggested that ethnocentrism may be mediated by the oxytocin hormone. It found that in randomized controlled trials "oxytocin creates intergroup bias because oxytocin motivates in-group favoritism and, to a lesser extent, out-group derogation".