Conducting International Consumer Ethnocentrism Surveys

By Luthy, Michael R. | Journal of International Business Research, July 2007 | Go to article overview

Conducting International Consumer Ethnocentrism Surveys

Luthy, Michael R., Journal of International Business Research


As a factor in consumer behavior, the construct of consumer ethnocentrism has been empirically established through the development and use of the CETSCALE instrument. The original research by Shimp and Sharma (1987) has been replicated and validated through numerous studies using samples from cultures around the world. In the current study, the role of native language presentation in measuring consumer ethnocentrism is explored; specifically, whether presentation of the survey in a subject's native language has the effect of increasing their expressed level of consumer ethnocentrism. Over 1,300 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in programs in business, law, and computer science at a private university in Reykjavik, Iceland were invited to participate in an electronic survey using CETSCALE. Subjects were randomly assigned to one of three experimental conditions: Icelandic language only, English language only, or side-by-side Icelandic and English language presentations of the CETSCALE. Approximately 25% of the sample participated. Statistical analysis showed that native language presentation did not have an impact on the respondent's level of consumer ethnocentrism. Study limitations are also discussed.


With the growth of world trade and the importance of new, international markets to businesses of virtually all sizes, gathering reliable and valid market and consumer research is crucial. As firms move into unfamiliar countries and cultures the potential of missteps increases. To paraphrase the Hippocratic Oath for marketing research purposes, investigators must first, "introduce no bias."

Although the use of English in business is widespread it cannot be assumed to be universal. English is spoken by far fewer potential consumers than many businesses would like in an effort to standardize processes, packaging, and of course, marketing research instruments. Even if English were to be spoken in ever increasing numbers of consumers across the globe it would remain for most a second or even third language learned.

As market researchers attempt to learn more and more about consumers, as they do so they would benefit from understanding the role that native or first-learned language plays in survey responses. This article explores one dimension of this question using an established instrument to see whether language presentation does have an effect on responses, namely consumer ethnocentrism.


Ethnocentrism, as a concept originally developed by Sumner (1906) in the early part of the last century is a strictly sociological factor, one that distinguishes differences between so-called "in-groups," which an individual identifies with and "out-groups," regarded as antithetical to the in-group by the individual. The concept has been extended to the field of psychology, (Levine and Campbell 1972), linking it to individual-level personality systems as well as to more broad-based cultural and social-analytic frameworks. The in-group perspective has value for individuals who tend to view it as a salient standard for cognitive decision-making (Hogg and Turner 1987; Ray and Lovejoy 1986). The boundaries used for forming the in-groups and out-groups however, vary depending on the issue (Forbes 1985).

In general terms, the concept of ethnocentrism represents the tendency of individuals to view their own group as the "center of the universe", to interpret other social groups from the perspective of their group, and to reject persons who are culturally dissimilar--while blindly accepting those who are culturally like themselves (Booth 1979; Worchel and Cooper 1979; Brislin 1993). Empirical research has linked ethnocentrism with other concepts such as nationalism (Levinson 1957) and patriotism (Chesler and Schumuck 1964). As Levine and Campbell (1972) noted, this tendency can lead individuals to regard the symbols and values of their ethnic or national group as objects of pride and form attachment, whereas symbols of other groups may be regarded with contempt or even scorn. …

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