Lead author Allison Skinner, a UW postdoctoral researcher, said she undertook the study after noting a lack of in-depth research on bias toward interracial couples.
“I felt like the polls weren’t telling the whole story,” said Skinner, a researcher in the UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences. In the first, 152 college students were asked a series of questions about relationships, including how disgusted they felt about various configurations of interracial relationships and about their own willingness to have an interracial romance.
The participants overall showed high levels of acceptance and low levels of disgust about interracial relationships, and pointed to a strong negative correlation between the two.
Women were less attracted to men high in attachment avoidance irrespective of culture, though attachment anxiety and avoidance were unrelated to male initial romantic attraction.More significantly, Skinner said, participants showed higher levels of activation in the insula — an area of the brain routinely implicated in the perception and experience of disgust — while viewing images of interracial couples.“That indicates that viewing images of interracial couples evokes disgust at a neural level,” Skinner said.Interracial marriage has grown in the United States over the past few decades, and polls show that most Americans are accepting of mixed-race relationships.A 2012 study by the Pew Research Center found that interracial marriages in the U. had doubled between 19 to about 15 percent, and just 11 percent of respondents disapproved of interracial marriage.“Some people are still not comfortable with interracial relationships, or at least they’re a lot less comfortable than they would appear to be,” she said.“Acknowledging these biases is the first step to figuring out why people feel that way and determining what can be done so they won’t.” For more information, contact Skinner at 206-685-1310 or [email protected] researchers asked the students to quickly indicate whether each couple should be included in a future study on relationships, a task that was intended to ensure participants were socially evaluating the couples while their neural activity was recorded.Participants responded faster to images of same-race couples and selected them more often for inclusion in the study.In 2013, they note, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen caused a furor when he wrote that New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s interracial marriage incited “a gag reflex” among some people, prompting the Post to write a follow-up story about the controversy.Such sentiments, Skinner said, belie the notion that most Americans are ready to embrace mixed-race romance.