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The Interaction of Cultures

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When many different cultures live together in one society, misunderstandings, biases, and judgments are inevitable—but fair evaluations, relationships, and learning experiences are also possible. Cultures cannot remain entirely separate, no matter how different they are, and the resulting effects are varied and widespread.


Ethnocentrism is the tendency to judge another culture by the standards of one’s own culture. Ethnocentrism usually entails the notion that one’s own culture is superior to everyone else’s.

Example: Americans tend to value technological advancement, industrialization, and the accumulation of wealth. An American, applying his or her own standards to a culture that does not value those things, may view that culture as “primitive” or “uncivilized.” Such labels are not just statements but judgments: they imply that it is better to be urbanized and industrialized than it is to carry on another kind of lifestyle.

     People in other cultures, such as some European cultures, also see American culture through the lens of their own ethnocentrism. To members of other cultures, Americans may seem materialistic, brash, or arrogant, with little intellectual subtlety or spirituality. Many Americans would disagree with that assessment.