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ABSTRACT  This study investigated an important but little understood issue in foreign language education: ethnocentrism. Research regarding how well second language instructors succeed in reducing ethnocentrism is scarce. Some researchers (e.g., Lambert) suggest that prejudice and ethnocentrism, which interfere with the attainment of openmindedness and cross-cultural understanding, are already well established in children by the age of 12. If this is true, can second language instructors succeed in achieving their goals?

The current study expanded upon the research of Tuttle et al. (1979) in which support was found for the hypothesis that ethnocentrism may be more efficiently reduced if the instructor stresses cultural similarities instead of differences when presenting cultural information about the target culture. The hypothesis had not been examined with college-aged subjects.

The three specific research questions investigated in this study were: (1) Does an approach to teaching German culture which emphasizes cultural similarities between German and American culture result in a statistically significant decrease in general ethnocentrism compared to an approach which emphasizes cultural differences? (2) Does an approach to teaching German culture which emphasizes cultural similarities between German and American culture result in a statistically significant decrease in ethnocentrism toward Germans compared to an approach which emphasizes cultural differences? (3) To what extent do variables selected on the basis of existing literature correlate to one's initial level of ethnocentrism?

The study utilized a quasiexperimental intact group design. Nine sections of first-semester German students were randomly assigned to one of three groups: one in which German and American cultural similarities were stressed, one in which German and American cultural differences were stressed, or a control group. All participants completed an attitude survey and provided demographic information prior to any of the cultural presentations. The author then presented six cultural units to each experimental group. Depending on the group viewing the presentations, either cultural similarities or differences were emphasized. All participants subsequently completed the same attitude survey in order to assess changes in ethnocentrism.

Although members of the similarities group demonstrated a greater decrease in ethnocentrism than members of the differences group, the results of the experiment were inconclusive because the difference was not statistically significant. However, the author does not view the results as a basis to dismiss the hypothesis. Rather, the data obtained suggest the need for further research on ethnocentrism in the foreign language classroom. The author discusses potential pedagogical implications and makes recommendations for future studies.