So if I read, for example a question on SE, and I automatically assume it is related to my own culture rather than another, what is that called?

I thought it would be ethnocentric, but it seems to me that word has a negative connotation. If there's no disrespect intended and the context of culture isn't relevant, I wouldn't think the assumption would be considered negatively.

This question was triggered by a question titled "Red Cross appearing on top of [...]" - to which my first inclination was to think American Red Cross - which isn't relevant at all, but not disrespectful, in my opinion, either.

Similarly, I'm sure most of us have read questions on various SE sites and thought of answers relating to our own lives, whether we have a single cultural point of reference or multiple.

Am I just reading that ethnocentrism has a negative connotation when it doesn't, or is there a better word for this? Maybe it's only the American dialect that has this problem.. or is that just me being unbias? The question of a proper antonym would be an entirely different question.

  • I just looked up the synonyms of ethnocentric, and this was the result: fanaticism, jingoism, nationalism, narrowness, zealotry, bellicism, fanatical patriotism. So I think these may provide clues at to what you are dealing with.
    – WS2
    Commented May 8, 2016 at 9:11
  • Cultural conditioning? Simple familiarity? Looking at your linked example, my first reaction was a red 'x' not a red cross '+', I would never have come up with the [American] Red Cross. I don't think this is a particularly Scots-English Canadian reaction on my part.
    – Icy
    Commented May 8, 2016 at 13:42
  • I'll say "one does not have cultural relativism." en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_relativism
    – vickyace
    Commented May 8, 2016 at 15:15
  • @WS2 yeah I saw those, but I still thought they seemed like negative connotation, but they probably are better Commented May 9, 2016 at 11:07
  • I suspect that "ethnocentric" is more commonly perceived as having a negative connotation by people with a particular view about cultural diversity. This probably then impacts on how others with a neutral cultural view might perceive the word. But this doesn't mean that the word is broadly perceived with any specific connotation other than its ordinary dictionary meaning. Commented May 9, 2016 at 11:31

1 Answer 1


The question you referred to reads Red cross and not Red Cross, so - unless it's been edited - you misread it.
Despite the numerous pejorative synonyms for ethnocentric adduced by Ws2, any human being's normal viewpoint is unavoidably ethnocentric: if I hear of a zebra crossing I am probably not going to picture a zebra crossing a river, but if I still lived where I grew up, I certainly would.
In the same way, if you think you read Red Cross, you can't be blamed for thinking American Red Cross, and indeed if you did not think that whenever you see these words, you would be forced to think a lot more slowly.


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