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Tendency to interpret or evaluate other cultures in terms of one's own. Generally considered a human universal, it is evident in the widespread practice of labeling outsiders as savages or barbarians simply because their societies differ from those of the dominant culture. Early anthropologists often reflected this tendency, as did Sir John Lubbock, who characterized all nonliterate peoples as being without religion, and Lucien Lévy-Bruhl, who found them to have a prelogical mentality because their worldview was unlike that of western Europe. The opposite of ethnocentrism is cultural relativism, the understanding of cultural phenomena within the context in which they occur.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on ethnocentrism, visit Britannica.com.