Theories of Ethnocentrism and Their Implications for Peacebuilding

Part of the Peace Psychology Book Series book series (PPBS)


It is impossible to understand the causes of ethnic conflicts, such as those in ex-Yugoslavia, without understanding the causes of ethnocentrism. This is one of the reasons why ethnocentrism has been studied widely by social scientists and is considered to be a fundamental concept. Nevertheless, a significant problem in the study of ethnocentrism has been a lack of conceptual clarity. Recent work in psychology has attempted to clarify ethnocentrism. It reconceptualized ethnocentrism as a complex multidimensional construct that consists of intergroup expressions of preference, superiority, purity, and exploitativeness, and intragroup expressions of group cohesion and devotion. This chapter applies major theories of ethnocentrism to the proposed reconceptualization. Theories of ethnocentrism can be broadly categorized according to what they perceive to be the main cause of ethnocentrism. These are threat perceptions, the need for self-aggrandizement, preference for those who are similar over those who are different, proneness to cognitive simplicity, broad social factors, such as social norms and representations, and evolutionary factors. This chapter shows how understanding ethnocentrism and its causes may help peace psychologists further understand ethnocentrism and ethnic conflict in ex-Yugoslavia and also help them build a long-lasting peace in the region.


Ethnocentrism War Peace Ethnic identity Conflict 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyThe Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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