What the Brain Says About Acceptance to Interracial Marriage

Posted by Sidney, 13 Sep

Since the Loving v. Virginia (1967) case, our attitudes towards interracial marriage have greatly improved. In 1958, only 4% of Americans accepted marriages between people of color and whites. Today, the percentage is higher. According to polls, 87% of Americans accept interracial marriage.

Question is: Are these polls a reflection of what Americans truly feel? And if so, why are there numerous incidents of hate crimes against interracial couples? Barely a month ago, a man stabbed an interracial couple for kissing in public. Landlords evict their tenants when they realize they are interracial. So are we lying when polling? Or is the subconscious still struggling with the acceptance of interracial couples?

To test this, Allison Skinner, Psychology Researcher at the University of Washington and her colleague Caitlin Hudac came up with a number of studies to determine how people really feel about interracial relationships and whether people have an underlying bias against interracial couples.

Your perfect partner could be online right now...

What are you looking for?

Investigating the insula

Much as our attitudes have supposedly changed, people's stomachs still churn at the sight of interracial couples, both in real life and even on adverts. Skinner and Hudac asked a sample of white college students to gauge their disgust or acceptance for interracial couples. And as the polls, they claimed to be largely accepting.

When it comes to sensitive matters like race, gender, sexual orientation, self-reporting normally yields false results because people are either unaware of their biases or they just lie about how they truly feel. So the psychologists conducted a second study using an electroencephalogram (EEG) to measure electrical activity in the brain. They then showed the sample 100 pictures of black-white couples and 100 of same-race couples and observed activity in the part the brain called insula - the part activated when someone felt disgust.

Results of the studies.

For most participants, the insula lit up when they viewed pictures of interracial couples as opposed to the same race pictures. Which means the self-reported polls gave false impression of how people feel.

Ramifications of feeling disgusted by interracial couples.

The feeling of disgust normally leads to dehumanization. Since the polls don't tell the whole story, much as we may not want to admit it, most people still harbor deep set biases against interracial marriage. So when someone is disgusted by interracial couples naturally they would dehumanize them. And this dehumanization could be the reason that even after reporting acceptance, we still find incidents of crimes against interracial couples.


Being disgusted by interracial couples isn't natural. We are not born biased. As Skinner puts it, "the existence of these biases is evidence of deeply ingrained societal attitudes about race in our culture – and there is a new and growing field of research on methods to reduce these biases... And at its most extreme, dehumanization can lead to acts of violence and cruelty – like the stabbing from earlier this summer."

3 responses to "What the Brain Says About Acceptance to Interracial Marriage"

Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

  1.   rogue_male says:
    Posted: 18 Sep

    Interesting article ~ not sure if its generally applicable to all countries though. It really puts the finger on American double standards though and that research technique could be applicable to other fields, like political analyses! (What do you feel when you see a picture of Donald Trump haha!) My experience in the USA FL in the mid 90's was that people got really tense if a mixed race couple (white male / black female) e.g., came into a tgi friday from the parking lot or similar! The black students and the white students did not mix at all on the Gainesville uni campus which I found weird coming from the UK! On the other hand my dusky south east asian partner of the time and I, had an easier ride. I would have thought interracial marriages internationally and of any kind strengthen the pool of human dna! Generally educated and civilised people in the UK and younger generations are more accepting of interracial dating etc. Though there are some weird attitudes in the wider ethnic communities about other ethnic communities. I guess reforming the police state, more integration, preventing ghettos, increasing education and reducing inequality is the only way to beat this level of primitive intolerance! So us sexy people who are willing to date inter-racially are on the front line of being good role models and setting a good example! Rogue_male UK x

    Like or Dislike: or 0 (0)
    Reply to this comment
  2. Posted: 14 Sep

    IBC1987 you are so right.

    Like or Dislike: or 0 ()
    Reply to this comment
  3.   IBC1987 says:
    Posted: 13 Sep

    If you're dating interracially just to piss people off, "experiment," and/or stand out in a crowd, you're doing it for the wrong reason. If you're dating interracially because you're genuinely attracted to the person and you love them unconditionally, nothing could be better.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: or 0 ()
    Reply to this comment