Physical attractiveness and exchange theory in interracial dating

Bernard I. Murstein, Joseph R. Merighi, Thomas E. Malloy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Twenty interracial couples (13 pairs of a Black man and a White woman; 7 pairs of a Black woman and a White man) were observed and rated by judges for physical attractiveness. The couples also rated themselves and their partners on this dimension. Because physical attractiveness is an important variable in interpersonal attraction, it was argued, in accordance with exchange theory, that in a racially prejudiced society Blacks would have to offer more to Whites than vice versa to participate in an interracial romantic relationship. It was hypothesized, therefore, that Blacks would exceed their White partners in physical attractiveness. The hypothesis was confirmed for the judges' ratings but not for self-concepts or perceptions of the partners. The reasons for the differences among the attractiveness measures and the implications of the findings as a barometer of racial status are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)325-334
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Social Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1989


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