But new research from the University of Washington suggests that reported acceptance of interracial marriage masks deeper feelings of discomfort — even disgust — that some feel about mixed-race couples.Published online in July in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology and co-authored by UW postdoctoral researcher Caitlin Hudac, the study found that bias against interracial couples is associated with disgust that in turn leads interracial couples to be dehumanized.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.Then, this past summer, a man stabbed an interracial couple after seeing them kiss in public.As a social psychologist, I’ve often wondered: are these types of incidents aberrations?Lastly, the researchers used an implicit association test, used to measure attitudes and beliefs people may be unwilling to acknowledge, to gauge whether feeling disgusted would impact more than 200 participants’ feelings about interracial couples.One group was first shown a series of disgusting images (a dirty toilet, a person vomiting), while the other was shown pleasant images of cityscapes and nature.
Such sentiments, Skinner said, belie the notion that most Americans are ready to embrace mixed-race 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.
In the second experiment, the researchers showed 19 undergraduate students wedding and engagement photos of 200 interracial and same-race couples while recording their neural activity.
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.