Social reasoning about racial exclusion in intimate and nonintimate relationships

Melanie Killen, Charles Stangor, Stacey Horn, Gretchen B. Sechrist

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


This research investigated the contextual nature of decisions about racial exclusion by analyzing why individuals might be willing to accept members of other racial groups into some types of social relationships but nevertheless exclude them from other types of relationships. Our analysis examined the underlying reasoning processes used to make such decisions. We conducted two studies to test the types of reasoning used by young adults regarding cross-race interpersonal relationships. Study 1 (N = 292) demonstrated that racial exclusion is more likely to be condoned and justified as an issue of personal choice and less likely to be seen as an issue of overt racism in intimate than in nonintimate contexts. Study 2 (N = 196) demonstrated that participants viewed it as more wrong to exclude others from cross-race than same-race relationships and that when relationships were high (vs. low) in physical contact they were viewed as more likely to be issues of personal choice, regardless of whether they were same- or cross-race. The results help explain why there are substantial contextual differences in the extent to which exclusion of individuals based on racial group membership is perceived as acceptable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-322
Number of pages30
JournalYouth and Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescence
  • Intergroup relations
  • Intimacy
  • Prejudice


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