Written by Suzanne C. Amadi
The presence of interracial romantic relationships is becoming more salient than in previous years, with 1 in 10 heterosexual marriages in the United States consisting of partners of a different racial background (Jayson, 2012). Although this increase has become apparent within the general population, there are certain factors affecting one’s willingness to date someone of a different race that have only recently been examined. These relationship constructs, including one’s similarity to and familiarity with individuals of a different race, have begun to spark the interest of relationship researchers. Additionally, the role of beliefs and ideologies about race has recently been shown to be associated with romantic attraction to partners both within and outside of one’s race (Brooks & Neville, 2016).
Interracial Attraction based on Similarity and Familiarity
One’s perception of and experiences with individuals of the same or a different race has an impact on dating and attraction. Researchers found that similarity in racial grouping significantly influences attraction (Tenney, Turkheimer, & Oltmanns, 2009). Additionally, the idea of proximity also influences attraction, as individuals who are physically close to one another may develop increased attraction and be more likely to enter a potential romantic relationship (Miller, Perlman, & Brehm, 2007). Regarding interracial dating, researchers, including Yancey (2002) and Clark-Ibanez and Felmlee (2004), found that individuals who have consistent contact or increases in networking with people of different races or ethnicities were more likely to date interracially.
Interracial Attraction based on Racial Ideologies
Interracial Attraction based on Racial Ideologies, Similarity, and Familiarity
The researchers also surveyed the men on their beliefs about race by measuring the participants’ levels of endorsement of a color-blind ideology and a multicultural ideology. The researchers found that white men who endorsed a color-blind ideology had lower ratings of romantic attraction towards women of a different race, while black men's endorsement of a color-blind ideology did not impact their attraction to women of different races. However, both black and white men who endorsed multiculturalism had increased romantic attraction to women of a different race. Additionally, for black men, greater interracial contact was associated with increased intra-racial attraction.
Why Is the Connection between Racial Beliefs and Interracial Dating Important?
When it comes to dating and attraction, contrary to popular belief, race does still matter. Race matters due to the racial beliefs and ideologies that people hold. These findings regarding racial beliefs suggest that it takes more than just believing that race is an unimportant factor in society or the absence of prejudice to foster romantic attraction toward others of a different race (Brooks & Neville, 2016). However, individuals who recognize and positively evaluate the racial and ethnic differences of others tend to accept the idea of interracial dating, as this fosters connectedness with another, regardless of race.
Brooks, J. E., & Neville, H. A. (2016). Interracial attraction among college men: The influence of ideologies, familiarity, and similarity. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 1-18. doi: 10.1177/0265407515627508
Clark‐Ibáñez, M., & Felmlee, D. (2004). Interethnic relationships: The role of social network diversity. Journal of Marriage and Family, 66(2), 293-305.
Eastwick, P. W., Richeson, J. A., Son, D., & Finkel, E. J. (2009). Is love colorblind? Political orientation and interracial romantic desire. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 1258-1268.
George, D., & Yancey, G. (2004). Taking stock of America's attitudes on cultural diversity: An analysis of public deliberation on multiculturalism, assimilation and intermarriage. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 35, 1-19.
Jayson, S. (2012, April 26). Census shows big jump in interracial couples. USA Today. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com.
Miller, R.S., Perlman, D., & Brehm, S.S. (2007). Intimate relationships. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Tenney, E. R., Turkheimer, E., & Oltmanns, T. F. (2009). Being liked is more than having a good personality: The role of matching. Journal of Research in Personality, 43(4), 579-585.
Yancey, G. (2002). Who interracially dates: An examination of the characteristics of those who have interracially dated. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 33, 179-190.
Are Interracial Daters Truly Undesirable or Insecure, Compared to Same-Race Daters? Examining the Personal Attributes of Interracial Daters
Written by Chelsea Ellithorpe
How does society perceive interracial daters?
Due to this prejudice, those in interracial relationships have been seen as less competent and well-adjusted (Lewandowski & Jackson, 2001) and have been said to have lower self-esteem (Shibazaki and Brennan, 1998), indicating that these daters may have turned to interracial dating due to viewing themselves as inferior in the same-race dating pool. This evidence may cause one to think that interracial daters possess undesirable attributes that cause them to turn to a partner of a different race or look down on one another due to the disapproval and prejudice that they face. However, Wu, Chen and Greenberger found that those in interracial relationships rated their partners higher on attractiveness and intelligence than those in same-race relationships did. They hypothesized that due to the social backlash that interracial daters face, partners in these relationships would need to have higher levels of more positive attributes in order to offset the negative effects of this disapproval (Wu, Chen & Greenberger, 2015).
How do interracial daters perceive their partners and themselves?
In the second study, couples were separated, and each partner rated themselves and their partner on these 27 positive attributes. The researchers also used grade point averages as an indicator of intelligence and found that there were no differences in grade point averages between the same-race and interracial couples. The study found that those participants who were in interracial relationships rated their partner more positively on cerebral and attractiveness attributes. In the last study, independent coders rated the attractiveness of each member of the dating couples, and the researchers found that those in interracial relationships were seen as being more physically attractive by the coders.
What does this mean for interracial daters?
These daters each seem to have higher desirability as partners, which may aid them in having the disapproval of society and their social networks. These couples may only decide to date if each partner meets a higher level of desirability than would be sought in a same-race relationship in order to help the couple stick together despite the negative aspects of interracial relationships.
Goyette, B. (2013, May 31). Cheerios Commercial Featuring Mixed Race Family Gets Racist Backlash. The Huffington Post. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
Lewandowski, D. A., & Jackson, L. A. (2001). Perceptions of interracial couples: Prejudice at the dyadic level. Journal of Black Psychology, 27, 288–303.
Lewis, R., Ford-Robertson, J., 2010. Understanding the occurrence of interracial marriage in the United States through differential assimilation. Journal of Black Studies, 41, 405–420.
McNamara, R. P., Tempenis, M., & Walton, B. (1999). Crossing the line: Interracial couples in the South. Westport, CT: Greenwood.
Rose, S. F., & Firmin, M. W. (2013). A qualitative study of interracial dating among college students. International Journal of Sociology of Education, 2, 67–92.
Shibazaki, K., & Brennan, K. A. (1998). When birds of different feathers flock together: A preliminary comparison of intra-ethnic and inter-ethnic dating relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 15, 248–256.
Wu, K., Chen, C., & Greenberger, E. (2015). The sweetness of forbidden fruit Interracial daters are more attractive than intraracial daters. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 32(5), 650-666.
Dr. H. Colleen Sinclair
Social Psychologist, Relationships Researcher,
Ms. Jessica Utley
Lab Manager of the Social Relations Collaborative and Blog Editor