Interracial Daters Are Rated More Attractive

New study compares attractiveness of interracial and intraracial daters

Posted Sep 11, 2014

Eve, Halle Berry, Jennifer Lopez, Taye Diggs, Idina Menzel, Heidi Klum, Seal and others have all been prominent figures involved in interracial relationships (though the end of the list begins to evoke images of divorce, you get the idea). Interracial relationships have given birth to famous celebrities who have spoken openly about interracial relationships. A recent example that jumps to mind is Tia and Tamara, famous for their sitcom Sister, Sister and their recent reality show. Although much remains to be learned about interracial relationships, and how society views such relationships, a new study in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships reports on attractiveness comparisons of interracial and intraracial daters.

Wu, Chen, and Greenberger (2014) conducted three studies comparing attractiveness between inter-and-intra-racial daters. In study one, 245 individuals (average age of 21.78 years old) who were either dating interracially or intraracially were asked to rate themselves on a list of positive attributes as well as provide estimates of their own partner’s assessments. These attributes pertained to categories including cerebral (e.g., “intelligent, rational, emotionally stable”), relational (e.g., “compassionate/kind, tolerant/accepting, affectionate”), vibrancy (e.g., “extroverted, socially skilled, fun/exciting”), and attractiveness (e.g., “sexy, physically attractive, well groomed/stylish”). With three of the four dimensions in mind, interracial daters provided higher partner assessments compared to intraracial daters; that is, interracial daters perceived that their partners evaluated their worth on those dimensions higher than those dating intraracially.

The researchers conducted a second study, this time using both members of the couple. Utilizing 100 heterosexual relationships comprised of individuals who were about 20 years old, the researchers found that “interracial daters rated their partners more positively on cerebral and attractiveness attributes, supporting the prediction that interracial daters may possess a higher level of desirable attributes compared to intraracial daters” (p. 11).

In a third and final study, the researchers utilized a sample of 101 established heterosexual couples dating either interracially or intraracially (average age of 20.33 years old). Rather than utilizing self-reports of desirable attributes, in this study individuals were photographed and a panel of 10 research assistants rated the photographs on physical attractiveness. Consistent with studies one and two, “interracial daters were rated as more physically attractive than intraracial daters” (p. 12).

As dating and mating, particularly the mate selection process, are complicated, this study informs an under-studied research area. Although their study focused on interracial relationships, the authors noted that their sample was limited as it “was comprised largely of Asians, Hispanics, and Caucasians” (p. 14). Uniquely, in interpreting their findings, the authors speculated that “our results offer an alternative explanation of biracial individuals’ documented attractiveness” (p. 14).  Additional studies will help us better understand how perceptions of attractiveness and mate value/selection operate.

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Wu, K., Chen, C., & Greenberger, E. (2014). The sweetness of forbidden fruit: Interracial daters are more attractive than intraracial daters. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships [online first].