What cultural terms refer to the judgment of another culture according to the standards of ones culture?

The Cross-Cultural Relationship is the idea that people from different cultures can have relationships that acknowledge, respect and begin to understand each others diverse lives. People with different backgrounds can help each other see possibilities that they never thought were there because of limitations, or cultural proscriptions, posed by their own traditions. Traditional practices in certain cultures can restrict opportunity because they are “wrong” according to one specific culture. Becoming aware of these new possibilities will ultimately change the people that are exposed to the new ideas. This cross-cultural relationship provides hope that new opportunities will be discovered but at the same time it is threatening. The threat is that once the relationship occurs, one can no longer claim that any single culture is the absolute truth.

Cultural relativism is the ability to understand a culture on its own terms and not to make judgments using the standards of one’s own culture. The goal of this is promote understanding of cultural practices that are not typically part of one’s own culture. Using the perspective of cultural relativism leads to the view that no one culture is superior than another culture when compared to systems of morality, law, politics, etc. [11] It is a concept that cultural norms and values derive their meaning within a specific social context. This is also based on the idea that there is no absolute standard of good or evil, therefore every decision and judgment of what is right and wrong is individually decided in each society. The concept of cultural relativism also means that any opinion on ethics is subject to the perspective of each person within their particular culture. Overall, there is no right or wrong ethical system. In a holistic understanding of the term cultural relativism, it tries to promote the understanding of cultural practices that are unfamiliar to other cultures such as eating insects, genocides or genital cutting.

There are two different categories of cultural relativism: Absolute: Everything that happens within a culture must and should not be questioned by outsiders. The extreme example of absolute cultural relativism would be the Nazi party’s point of view justifying the Holocaust.

Critical: Creates questions about cultural practices in terms of who is accepting them and why. Critical cultural relativism also recognizes power relationships.

Absolute cultural relativism is displayed in many cultures, especially Africa, that practice female genital cutting. This procedure refers to the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or any other trauma to the female reproductive/genital organs. By allowing this procedure to happen, females are considered women and then are able to be married. FGC is practiced mainly because of culture, religion and tradition. Outside cultures such as the United States look down upon FGC, but are unable to stop this practice from happening because it is protected by its culture.

What cultural terms refer to the judgment of another culture according to the standards of ones culture?
Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\) - A Chinese woman with her feet unbound
What cultural terms refer to the judgment of another culture according to the standards of ones culture?
Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\) - A Chinese Golden Lily Foot by Lai Afong, c1870s

Cultural relativism can be seen with the Chinese culture and their process of feet binding. Foot binding was to stop the growth of the foot and make them smaller. The process often began between four and seven years old. A ten foot bandage would be wrapped around the foot forcing the toes to go under the foot. It caused the big toe to be closer to the heel causing the foot to bow.[4]In China, small feet were seen as beautiful and a symbol of status. The women wanted their feet to be “three-inch golden lotuses”三寸金蓮[3] It was also the only way to marry into money. Because men only wanted women with small feet, even after this practice was banned in 1912, women still continued to do it. To Western cultures the idea of feet binding might seems torturous, but for the Chinese culture it was a symbol of beauty that has been ingrained the culture for hundreds of years. The idea of beauty differs from culture to culture.


  1. “African People & Culture – Ashanti”.
  2. “Japanese Hip Hop and the Globalization of Popular Culture” Ian Condry
  3. Southern California Quarterly “Cinco de Mayo’s First Seventy-Five Years in Alta California: From Spontaneous Behavior to Sedimented Memory, 1862 to 1937” Spring 2007 (see American observation of Cinco de Mayo started in California) accessed Oct 30, 2007
  4. “Health and Human Rights”, World Health Organization http://www.who.int/hhr/HHRETH_activities.pdf (pdf) Accessed June 2009
  5. “Discussion Group 10 Week 2- Marisa Mikelsons”
  6. Condry, Ian, 2001 “Japanese Hip-Hop and the Globalization of Popular Culture.” In Urban Life: Readings in the Anthropology of the City. George Gmelch and Walter Zenner, eds. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press.
  7. Democracy in Dakar, Nomadic Wax, 2008
  8. courses.wwu.edu/webapps/porta...82_1&frame=top
  9. Barton Wright Cruz Bay Publishing, Inc. http://www.collectorsguide.com/fa/fa040.shtml
  10. Schultz, Emily A., and Robert H. Lavenda. Cultural Anthropology : A Perspective on the Human Condition. New York: Oxford UP, Incorporated, 2009.pg.79.
  11. Philosophy Home, 2009. http://www.cultural-relativism.com/
  12. Zmago Šmitek and Božidar Jezernik, “The anthropological tradition in Slovenia.” In: Han F. Vermeulen and Arturo Alvarez Roldán, eds. Fieldwork and Footnotes: Studies in the History of European Anthropology. 1995.
  13. American Anthropological Association Statement on “Race”(May 17, 1998) http://www.aaanet.org/stmts/racepp.htm
  1. Peter L. Berger, Invitation to Sociology: A Humanistic Perspective, Anchor, 1963, ISBN 0385065299
  2. C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination, Oxford University Press, 1961, ISBN 0195133730
  3. Louisa Lim, Painful Memories for China’s Footbinding Survivors www.npr.org/templates/story/s...toryId=8966942
  4. James A. Crites Chinese Foot Binding, http://www.angelfire.com/ca/beekeeper/foot.html
  5. www.allaboutphilosophy.org/cu...relativism.htm
  6. Justin Marozzi, The son of the Father of History, 2007, www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/b...f-History.html
  7. Introduction to The Journey of Friar John of Pian de Carpine to the Court of Kuyuk Khan, 1245-1247, as translated by William Woodville Rockhill, 1900,depts.washington.edu/silkroad...s/carpini.html
  8. Schultz, Emily A., and Robert H. Lavenda. Cultural Anthropology A Perspective on the Human Condition. 7th ed. New York: Oxford UP.
  9. “RACE – The Power of an Illusion . What Is Race |.” PBS. 08 Mar. 2009 <www.pbs.org/race/001_WhatIsRa...01_00-home.htm>.
  10. Miller, Barabra. Cultural Anthropology. 4th ed. Boston: Pearson Education Inc., 2007.
  11. Lorber, Judith. “Night to His Day”: The Social Construction of Gender.” From Inquiry to Academic Writing: A text and Reader. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008. 617-30.
  12. Bourgois, Philippe. “Workaday World, Crack Economy.” The Nation (1995): 706-11.
  • What is Anthropology? – Information from the American Anthropological Association
  • SLA– Society for Linguistic Anthropology
  1. ^ Schultz, Emily A., and Robert H. Lavenda. Cultural Anthropology : A Perspective on the Human Condition. New York: Oxford UP, Incorporated, 2009. pg.79.
  2. ^ Schultz, Emily A., and Robert H. Lavenda. Cultural Anthropology : A Perspective on the Human Condition. New York: Oxford UP, Incorporated, 2009. pgs. 332-333

What cultural terms refer to the judgment of another culture according to the standards of ones culture?

By Olivia Guy-Evans, published May 11, 2022 | Fact Checked by Saul Mcleod, PhD

Ethnocentrism is using one’s own culture as the benchmark to judge other cultures so creating bias. Ethnocentrism occurs when one has the belief that their own cultural group is superior to others.

Individuals who are ethnocentric will believe that their culture’s beliefs, ideas, values, and practices are correct, and they use the standards in their own culture to assess other cultural groups.

They will tend to have negative attitudes towards other cultures and believe their beliefs, ideas, values, and practices are wrong or strange.

A popular example of ethnocentrism is to think of the utensils different cultures prefer to use. Some cultures prefer to use forks, spoons, and knives to eat, and may have the belief that it is weird or incorrect that some cultures traditionally use chopsticks to eat. 

Ethnocentrism can occur for anyone across most cultures and societies and is not limited to one culture.

It is thought to occur largely because people have the greatest understanding of their own culture which leads them to believe that the norms and standards of their own culture are universally adopted.

So, if they notice anything that deviates from their cultural norms, this can lead to ethnocentric attitudes.

Some researchers believe that ethnocentrism comprises in-group favouritism and vilification of out-groups, thus people have a high opinion of their own group and think negatively about out-groups.

The predominant view in psychology has been white, male, mainly from the USA. It means psychologists ignore views, values, language or culture from elsewhere.

For example views about the signs and symptoms of mental disorders in DSM are based on white male experiences so other experiences are ignored. Views about appropriate patterns of child rearing are based on the practices shared in white, English speaking cultures and other ways devalued.

In psychology, ethnocentrism can exist when researchers design studies or draw conclusions that can only be applied to one cultural group.

Ethnocentrism occurs when a researcher assumes that their own culturally specific practices or ideas are ‘natural’ or ‘right’.

The individual uses their own ethnic group to evaluate and make judgments about other individuals from other ethnic groups. Research which is ‘centred’ around one cultural group is called ‘ethnocentric’.

When other cultures are observed to differ from the researcher’s own, they may be regarded in a negative light e.g. ‘primitive’, ‘degenerate’, ‘unsophisticated’, ‘undeveloped’ etc.

This becomes racism when other cultures are denigrated or their traditions regarded as irrelevant etc.

Ethnocentrism in psychology can reduce the generalisability of findings since the researchers may not have accounted for cultural diversity. 

What are the disadvantages of ethnocentrism?

While it is not necessarily a bad thing to believe your culture is good, or to be patriotic, ethnocentrism is the belief that your culture is superior, and this comes with downfalls.

Ethnocentrism can lead to people being more close-minded to how other people live, almost as if they are living in a bubble of their own culture. This can reinforce the in-group/out-group mentality. 

Believing that one’s own culture is correct can spread misinformation about other cultures, which can lead to negative consequences.

If a group upholds the belief that other groups are inferior to them, this could result in groups discriminating against each other. On an extreme scale, ethnocentrism can lead to prejudice or racism. 

Upholding the sanctity of one’s own culture may hinder societal progress and may prevent cooperation between cultures.

Cultural groups may be less likely to help each other in times of need and may only seek to preserve the people in their own group whom they consider more important. 

Specifically, ethnocentrism in research could result in negative consequences if the materials used to research are produced with one culture in mind.

An example of this is when the United States Army used IQ tests on individuals before World War one which was biased towards white American ideas of intelligence.

Because of this, Europeans had lower scores of intelligence, and African Americans were at the bottom of the IQ scale.

This had a negative effect on the attitudes of white Americans towards these other groups of people, specifically that they are not as intelligent as them.

When research does not consider ethnocentrism, this can reinforce pre-existing discrimination and prevent other cultures from having equal opportunities. 

The classic study of The Strange Situation by Ainsworth (1970) is an example of ethnocentric research. This study was developed to assess the attachment types of infants – the sample in this study using all American infants.

Many researchers assumed this study has the same meaning for infants from other cultures as it did for American children, however the results from other cultures were very different. 

Most noteworthy are the differences observed in Japanese and German infants in comparison to American infants.

While the American ideal standard for attachment is ‘secure attachment’, a lot of the Japanese infants displayed behaviours that would be considered ‘insecure-resistant attachment’ whilst a lot of the German infants displayed what would be considered ‘insecure-avoidant attachment’. 

The different results from other cultures were presented as ‘abnormal’ and in need of explanation, rather than considering that the differences are due to cultural differences in how children are raised.

It does not mean that German mothers are more insensitive or that Japanese mothers are too clingy to their children just because their infants react differently to American children.

The methods used in The Strange Situation are examples of imposed etic, meaning to study a culture from the outside and make inferences in relation to one culture’s standard.

More valid results could be obtained through the use of an emic study, meaning to study a culture from the inside. 

How does ethnocentrism relate to cultural bias?

Cultural bias in psychology is when research is conducted in one culture and the findings are generalised to other cultures or are accepted as universally applicable.

Ainsworth’s research is culturally biased since standards were set as to what being securely attached means, based on an American-only sample.

This theory was then generalised to other cultures so that what was considered behaviour of securely attached children in America should be what all children in other cultures should behave to be considered securely attached.

The parenting styles and behaviour of their infants in cultures outside of America being seen as abnormal because it doesn’t fit the American norms is what relates cultural bias to ethnocentrism. 

Another example of cultural bias relates to the designs of standardised tests such as intelligence tests. Intelligence tests that are designed by Western researchers reflect the idea of what the West considers as being intelligent.

However, Western cultures may have a different idea of what qualifies as intelligence compared to other cultures.

Thus, when using Western designed intelligence tests in non-western countries, there is likely to be a bias in the results since the test is measuring something from the benchmark of different cultural experiences.

This can lead to ethnocentrism if those outside of the West score significantly lower on intelligence scores and this leads to the West having the misconception that non-western countries are less intelligent.  

There are two types of cultural bias that can relate to psychological research:

  • Alpha bias – this occurs when a theory assumes that cultural groups are profoundly different. Since their differences are exaggerated, the cultural norms and values of the researchers are considered superior to other cultures. 

  • Beta bias – this occurs when real cultural differences are ignored or minimised. All people are assumed to be the same, resulting in research that is universally applied to all cultures. 

What is cross-cultural psychology?

Cross-cultural psychology is a branch of psychology that looks at how cultural factors influence human behaviour.

The goal is to look at both universal and unique behaviours to establish the ways in which culture has an influence on behaviour, relationships, education etc. 

After focusing on North American and European research for many years, Western researchers began to question whether many of the observations and ideas that were considered to be universal actually apply to other cultures outside of the sample that was studied.

Many cross-cultural psychologists have found that many observations about human thought and behaviour may only be generalisable to specific groups. 

An emic approach, which looks within cultures to identify behaviours that are specific to that culture is usually the most appropriate approach to studying cross-culturally.

With the emic approach, researchers can immerse themselves fully into a culture and develop a deep understanding of their practices and values.

From this, they can develop research procedures and interpret the findings with that culture in mind. These procedures would then not be used across other cultures where it may yield invalid results.

What topics can be studied in cross-cultural psychology?

Cross-cultural psychology can explore many topics such as:

  • Child development – whether unique cultural practices influence development.

  • Emotions – do all people experience emotions the same way? Is emotional expression universal?

  • Language – whether the acquisition of language and its development is similar or different between cultures?

  • Relationships – the differences in family, romantic relationships, and friendships which are influenced by culture.

  • Personality – the degree to which aspects of personality might be influenced to or linked with cultural influences. 

  • Social behaviour – understanding how the cultural norms and expectations have an effect on social behaviour. 

What are the benefits of cross-cultural psychology?

By understanding what could have been cultural bias, researchers have increased their understanding of the impact of culture, cultural differences, and culture specific behaviours. 

This has had benefits when it comes to the diagnosis of mental illness for example. Previously, some culture specific behaviours were often mis-diagnosed as a symptom of a disorder.

Recent issues of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) now include a list of culture specific behaviours which help to accurately diagnose mental health issues. 

Modern researchers are now able to travel a lot more than they would have done in the past. They are able to have contact with people from all across the globe as well as being able to hold talks and conferences where researchers from different cultures can meet to discuss ideas.

This may mean there should be less cultural bias now since researchers from other cultures being able to talk can help grow understanding and acceptance of differences.

Researchers can also use input from people from different cultures to discuss any potential methodology flaws which can lead to cultural bias. 

Ethnocentrism vs cultural relativism

Ethnocentrism and cultural relativism are two ways in which we assess a culture that is not our own.

While ethnocentrism means someone may judge other cultures based on the standards of their own cultures, cultural relativism is the notion that a culture should be understood on its own terms, without judgement against the criteria of another culture.

Someone who is ethnocentric may believe that their culture is ‘correct’ and ‘normal’ but someone who adopts cultural relativism understands that one culture is not better than another. 

An example of ethnocentrism is believing that the traditional clothing of a culture other than your own is ‘strange’ or ‘incorrect’, whereas cultural relativism would appreciate and accept that different cultures have their own clothing and would not make a negative judgement about someone’s clothing even if it is different to what is the norm for them.

In research, cultural relativism is the ideology that what may be observable in research may only make sense from the perspective of the culture being observed and cannot be applied to different cultures.

Ethnocentrism can be avoided or reduced by studying culture using an emic approach. This approach aims to observe cultural differences in the relevant context and uses that culture’s concepts or standards. 

Ethnocentric studies are not inherently invalid and should not be disregarded. Instead, researchers should make sure to point out that their research may only be applied to the sample they studied and the application to other cultures is questionable. 

How can psychology use cultural relativism?

An example of how cultural relativism is relevant in research is noted by Sternberg (1985) who stated that the meaning of intelligence is different in every culture.

They noticed that in some cultures, coordination and motor skills are essential to life so if someone excels in these skills, they are considered highly intelligent according to that culture.

However, in other cultures, motor skills are less relevant to intelligent behaviours and the culture instead values vast knowledge on a range of topics as intelligence instead. 

There is the development of ‘indigenous psychologies’ in research which draws explicitly on the unique experience of people in a different cultural context.

Afrocentrism is an example of this, which suggests that theories of people with African heritage must recognise the African context of behaviours and attitudes.

This approach matters because it has led to the emergence of theories that are more relevant to the lives and cultures of people not only in Africa, but also those far removed from their African origins. 

Olivia Guy-Evans obtained her undergraduate degree in Educational Psychology at Edge Hill University in 2015. She then received her master’s degree in Psychology of Education from the University of Bristol in 2019. Olivia has been working as a support worker for adults with learning disabilities in Bristol for the last four years.

Content is rigorously reviewed by a team of qualified and experienced fact checkers. Fact checkers review articles for factual accuracy, relevance, and timeliness. We rely on the most current and reputable sources, which are cited in the text and listed at the bottom of each article. Content is fact checked after it has been edited and before publication.

Guy-Evans, O. (2022, May 11). What is Ethnocentrism and How Does it Impact Psychological Research? Simply Psychology. www.simplypsychology.org/ethnocentrism.html

Cherry, K. (2022, April 6). What Is Cross-Cultural Psychology? Very Well Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-cross-cultural-psychology-2794903   

Hasa. (2020, February 17). What is the Difference Between Ethnocentrism and Cultural Relativism. PEDIAA. https://pediaa.com/what-is-the-difference-between-ethnocentrism-and-cultural-relativism/#:~:text=and%20Cultural%20Relativism-,Definition,using%20standards%20of%20another%20culture 

Psychology Hub. (2021, March 17). Cultural Bias In Psychology. https://www.psychologyhub.co.uk/culture-bias-in-psychology/ 

Sternberg, R. J. (1985). Implicit theories of intelligence, creativity, and wisdom. Journal of personality and social psychology, 49(3), 607.

What cultural terms refer to the judgment of another culture according to the standards of ones culture?
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Study Smarter. (n.d.). Ethnocentrism. Retrieved 2022, May 10, from: https://www.studysmarter.de/en/explanations/psychology/issues-and-debates-in-psychology/ethnocentrism/ 

Thalmayer, A. G., Toscanelli, C., & Arnett, J. J. (2021). The neglected 95% revisited: Is American psychology becoming less American? American Psychologist, 76(1), 116–129.

Tutor2U. (2021, March 22). Issues & Debates: Evaluating Culture Bias. https://www.tutor2u.net/psychology/reference/issues-debates-evaluating-culture-bias 

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