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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.
During the implicit association test, the two groups were tasked with categorizing photographs of same-race and interracial couples and silhouettes of humans and animals.
They were first instructed to press one computer key if the image showed an animal silhouette or a mixed-race couple, and another key if it was a human silhouette or a same-race couple.
As with all neuroscience studies, Skinner said, it is impossible to be certain whether the insula activation reflected a disgust response, since the insula is sometimes responsive to other emotions.
Participants were quicker to associate interracial couples with non-human animals and same-race couples with humans.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.In 2013, they note, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen caused a furor when he wrote that New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s interracial marriage incited “a gag reflex” among some people, prompting the Post to write a follow-up story about the controversy.Such sentiments, Skinner said, belie the notion that most Americans are ready to embrace mixed-race romance.