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The Bennett scale, also called the DMIS (for Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity), was developed by Dr. Milton Bennett. The framework describes the different ways in which people can react to cultural differences.

Organized into six “stages” of increasing sensitivity to difference, the DMIS identifies the underlying cognitive orientations individuals use to understand cultural difference. Each position along the continuum represents increasingly complex perceptual organizations of cultural difference, which in turn allow increasingly sophisticated experiences of other cultures. By identifying the underlying experience of cultural difference, predictions about behavior and attitudes can be made and education can be tailored to facilitate development along the continuum. The first three stages are ethnocentric as one sees his own culture as central to reality. Moving up the scale the individual develops a more and more ethnorelative point of view, meaning that you experience your own culture as in the context to other cultures. At the next stage these ethnocentric views are replaced by ethnorelative views.

Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity Edit

  1. Denial of Difference
    • Individuals experience their own culture as the only “real” one. Other cultures are either not noticed at all or are understood in an undifferentiated, simplistic manner. People at this position are generally disinterested in cultural difference, but when confronted with difference their seemingly benign acceptance may change to aggressive attempts to avoid or eliminate it.
  2. Defense against Difference
    • One’s own culture is experienced as the most “evolved” or best way to live. This position is characterized by dualistic us/them thinking and frequently accompanied by overt negative stereotyping. People at this position are more openly threatened by cultural difference and more likely to be acting aggressively against it. A variation at this position is seen in reversal where one’s own culture is devalued and another culture is romanticized as superior.[1]
  3. Minimization of Difference
    • The experience of similarity outweighs the experience of difference. People recognize superficial cultural differences in food, customs, etc,. but they emphasize human similarity in physical structure, psychological needs, and/or assumed adherence to universal values. People at this position are likely to assume that they are no longer ethnocentric, and they tend to overestimate their tolerance while underestimating the effect (eg “privilege”) of their own culture.
  4. Acceptance of difference
    • One’s own culture is experienced as one of a number of equally complex worldviews. People at this position accept the existence of culturally different ways of organizing human existence, although they do not necessarily like or agree with every way. They can identify how culture affects a wide range of human experience and they have a framework for organizing observations of cultural difference.
  5. Adaptation to Difference
    • Individuals are able to expand their own worldviews to accurately understand other cultures and behave in a variety of culturally appropriate ways. Effective use of empathy, or frame of reference shifting, to understand and be understood across cultural boundaries.
  6. Integration of Difference
    • One’s experience of self is expanded to include the movement in and out of different cultural worldviews. People at this position have a definition of self that is “marginal” (not central) to any particular culture, allowing this individual to shift rather smoothly from one cultural worldview to another.

See alsoEdit


  1. While this level may initially be interpreted as a higher level of sensitivity, it is actually consistent with the dualistic thinking characterized by this stage where one culture is seen as good and another culture as bad. In this case, however, it is one’s own culture that is seen as bad and another’s culture that is seen as good; neither culture is valued in its own right.

References Edit

Bennett, M. J. (2004). Becoming interculturally competent. In J.S. Wurzel (Ed.) Toward multiculturalism: A reader in multicultural education. Newton, MA: Intercultural Resource Corporation. (Originally published in The diversity symposium proceedings: An interim step toward a conceptual framework for the practice of diversity. Waltham, MA: Bentley College, 2002). Additional information at

Bennett, M. J. (1993). Towards ethnorelativism: A developmental model of intercultural sensitivity (revised). In R. M. Paige (Ed.), Education for the Intercultural Experience. Yarmouth, Me: Intercultural Press.

Bennett, M. J. (1986). A developmental approach to training intercultural sensitivity. in J. Martin (Guest Ed.), Special Issue on Intercultural Training, International Journal of Intercultural Relations. Vol 10, No.2.álisérzékenység-fejlesztési modell

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