People of mixed-race are more attractive, unless those
judging are thinking about what racial group the person
belongs to, University of Otago research shows.
The research by Prof Jamin Halberstadt of the department of
psychology and Prof Piotr Winkielman from the University of
California, San Diego, used blended faces made up of two
individuals, one Chinese and one Caucasian.
The research found participants preferred mixed-race faces to
single-race faces. However, this changed for those who had to
first decide if a face was Chinese or Caucasian, those
participants judging mixed-race faces to be relatively
In a parallel experiment the researchers used
electromyography (EMG) to measure facial expressions and
found people were less inclined to smile at the faces
presented to them if they had to categorise them first.
The research comes after previous research showed blended
faces, regardless of race, were usually found to be more
attractive than the original faces that went into the blend.
''This blending effect is especially evident for cross-race
blends, so if you take two people of different races and
blend them together then you get a face that is more
attractive than the originals,'' Prof Halberstadt said.
The findings did not indicate people were subconsciously
racist and instead revealed something that was ''endemic to
the way people process information'', Prof Halberstadt said.
''I do think people are subconsciously racist, but I don't
think that's what is going on here,'' he said.
''Our idea was that these effects might be explainable by
'processing fluency' - how easy it is to perceive, process
and categorise something.''
People preferred blended faces because they more closely
fitted a person's general idea of what a face should look
like based on the ''population of faces'' they had been
''When you think of multiracial individuals as examples of
humans they are more appealing because they better capture
your overall experience of life.''
But when people were thinking of the blended faces as
examples of racial groups their ambiguity ''pulls down their
appeal'' because they were difficult to categorise.