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.
Dr. H. Colleen Sinclair
Social Psychologist, Relationships Researcher,
Ms. Chelsea Ellithorpe
Lab Manager of the Social Relations Collaborative and Blog Editor