Why Are Racially-Mixed People More Attractive Than 'Purebreds'?

I used to think that I was the only one who felt that people who are multi-racial are usually more attractive than people who aren’t, but I now realize that many others share this opinion.

Why is it that, generally speaking, multi-racial people more physically attractive than people whose parents are of the same race? Does continued breeding within a single race cause deleterious recessive genes to accumulate, causing homeliness in their offspring??


This is more a matter of opinion than it is a question with a factual answer. Beauty isn’t an objective, genetically measurable quality. It’s kind of like saying “why are girls with big butts so damn hot?”

Maybe it’s just because mixed-race people tend to look more “exotic”, and so therefore more appealing?

One of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen was a swimsuit model whose racial background was a blend of Japanese/Hawaiian/Mexican/Irish. She was absolutely stunning, I’ve also seen pictures of a Japanese model who, to my eye, clearly had a substantial portion of Irish or Scottish blood. Don’t see too many Japanese people with green eyes - it made for a memorable picture.

So “mixed” people likely just look different enough to stick in our minds, and that may lead to the “more attractive” impression.

Actually, it could probably be stated as a fact (or at least a scientific hypothesis with experimental support) that folks tend to find people with features that have been “averaged” more attractive.

There was an article in, I believe, ‘Discover’ magazine, where a researcher had digitally combined or “averaged” many facial photos, and was surprised to find that the more photos put together, the more attractive the end result was. I know I agreed with the researcher from looking at the photo examples, but I don’t recall if it had been put to a poll with large sample base. I felt comfortable that the end result would have been considered more attractive by most people, and not just me, though.

I do not recall what theories were floated to explain this, though. Speculating now, though, I wonder if somehow our “tastes” have been bred to “recognize” when someone has a diverse genetic background, and hence is less likely to carry genetic disease that requires multiple recessive genes.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That is all there is to it.

And there’s no such thing as a race, far less a ‘purebred’.

The idea that mixed race people in general are more attractive than ‘purebreds’ is of course a gross stereotype, and most likely unprovable.

However, I kind of get what you’re saying and agree. Here are my half-assed theories.

  1. by combining relatively different gene pools (yes I know all races really only differ in the nth decimal place, but…) you are providing the opportunity for a more optimal mix of gene combinations, i.e. the best of both worlds.

  2. since there is a varying degree of stigma attached to mixed race parings, the couple who do come together might be on the more attractive end of the scale. To put it bluntly, if you’re going to suffer whatever level of stigma and social disapproval for being with someone, he/she better be hot.

  3. This I think is the most likely: since mixed race people are still relatively rare, the examples we do see may come through the media rather than real-life. We get the aforementioned Irish/Brazillian (whatever) bikini model, or Rosario Dawson, or some other celebrity, and that skews our perception of the whole.

Just my two cents.

Full discolsure; my ‘race’ is the typical Caucasian stew, my wife is Japanese, and I think our new son is the cutest thing ever, so I might be biased! :smiley:

I think it’s a mystery why we find most anything more attractive than something else. Human beauty could at least be argued on the evolutionary basis. Certain traits were better for producing babies, so we would find those more attractive.

But why have a preference for other things? Why do we find some puppies so damn cute, but other puppies ugly? Why do we think certain dogs are prettier than others. I find certain species of dolphins more visually appealing than others. Why would I even have a preference? It seems we have preferences for just about anything living. I find certain flowers prettier than others. Maybe not trees though. I dont think I’ve ever thought one tree was prettier than another. But I hate trees. So we find beauty and preference for most living things. Why is that? And what about colors? Why is one color better to us than another. It doesn’t really make sense.

Same with multi-racial people. I dont think anyone could possible explain it without answer all the above questions.

Any idea why we even have the concept of “beauty” though? Why is one color prettier than the other. But we have no opinion about other things. Like I can look at a pile of concrete and a pile of wood and not think either is more attractive than the other. But if I see a field of dandelions, I will have an opinion as to whether or not the field of sunflowers is prettier. Why does my brain make a distinction? What’s the point?

I’ve seen plenty of unattractive mixed people. One was a guy (I’m a guy but I felt he looked rather odd) who was of chinese / white mix. His mixed features looked rather strange on his face (almond eyes with brown hair and very pale skin).

But I agree, mixing “races” seem to make people more “general” which might be why they tend to become more attractive to more people (since many people like asian girls or european girls, mixing the two might interest both groups of people etc).

To expand on what RevTim said about “averaging” - a racial mix is likely to soften distinctive racial features. We can find someone of another race to be unattractive, but may not know specifically why. But if that person has children with someone of another race, the physical characteristics of race are likely to be toned down in the children and we may find the children more attractive when they grow up.

For example, the child of a white mother and black father will likely not have his/her father’s thicker lips and broad nose, and will therefore be closer in appearance to what the average white person finds attractive. (Apologies - I’m white, so I am hard-pressed to pick out features that are “distinctive” to whites, because those features are “typical” to me, rather than "distinctive. So I have to mention typical distinctive features of other races.)

As another example, a white or black woman may not be attracted to Asian men, due to Asian men being shorter and more slightly built than white or black men. But a man who is a mix of Asian and white or black may be more attractive, because he’s taller and more stout.

You want gross, stereotypical, half-baked generalizations, you got it:

Purebreds are the result of generatations of inbreeding and are therefore more susceptible to a variety of genetic ailments. You wouldn’t want to mate with a sick individual, so you tend to think that these people are less attractive. Mixed-race people are hybrids (obviously), so are more likely to be healthier and more vigorous than their purebred counterparts. You’d rather make babies with a healthy person, so this translates into greater attractiveness.

I wonder if that gets this thread sent to GD. Or maybe I get sent to the Pit?

I think this is a HUGE factor. You probably pass by many average or below-average looking people on the street every day and do not realize that some of them come from a multiracial parentage. In my job I work with a large number of people and the ones that I know are multiracial are not, IMO, more attractive on average than the rest of the people.

But that’s sure easy to forget when Halle Berry walks onto a movie screen!

I think it is 90% selection bias of various types. I doubt any other possible contributing factors, would be nearly as significant a viewer selection bias

The most obvious is “beauty selection bias”. Go to an impoverished urban center, and you’ll see many “ugly” people of mixed parentage, many more roughly ‘average-looking’, quite a few with the transient beauty of youth (lower SES correlates with high birth rate). However, we tend to disregard unattractive people (and depending on private nature, often average-looking people as well). Of the exceptionally attractive people we see (leaving aside personal tastes), those who are unusual for a clearly defined reason (like mixed race) stand out, and stick in our minds with a label under them.

There’s are also social selection of parents. (The “attractive people” you are admiring were probably born in the 1960s-80s, when mixed race mating was more stigmatized than it is today especially in the middle and upper classes; presumably a greater degree of mutual attraction was required on average to bring such couples together – pretty parents tend to produce pretty kids: they are likely to share the generally preferred proportions and features. That’s one reason I cited the lowere SES urban centers, where the barriers began to break earlier (due to propinquity) and where, therefore, mixed couples of average appearance (or less) are more common. This happens almost anywhere that the barriers are lowered: Hawaii, the Carribean, etc. have many attractive people, but I’ve never seen any evidence that they are more attractive on avergage

While there is probably some merit to the idea of “averaged” faces, it doesn’t apply to individuals. An individual is the mix of his/her parents, not their “races” and therefore not much more likely to be pretty or ugly [on average] than the child of any othe parents of the same degree of attractiveness as their own.

When it comes to research on facial averages, I much prefer the research that focuses on mathematical models like “eigenfaces” or socio-, psycho-, anthropological papers that are written with a good understanding of the findings of studies based on those models (I often check the bibiographies before analyzing a paper - it’s good to know what major work they considered or ignored). Too many papers on this subject fixate on methods or some specific conclusion. Some skew is unavoidable, but mathematical modeling studies seem to eliminate many possible complicating factors

For example, marked signs of age or obesity are often deliberately eliminated from the sample pool of photo evaluations studies. These are not ‘complications’, but precisely the kind of “reality” that justifies photo studies over CGI models. Any study that eliminates them is skewed at the outset. I know many attractive people with very distinct signs of aging or excess weight. Any robust theory or principle of attractiveness must account for them as easily as the young or slim. The older and heavier populations of the US, combined, are easily the majority, yet many papers treat youth and slenderness as the norm. One can only speculate why.

Of course, these are just my offhand thoughts and personal opinions, even less reliable than my usual posts

Screw you.

I’ve never even thought of this, and now I likely will for a few weeks. I can’t even venture a guess. I know that some researchers believe that in animals, we like the ones that have human traits more than those that don’t. So when it comes to saving baby seals with big bright eyes (like a human baby) or sea otters who lie on their backs and play (like little kids) we get all protective, but when it comes to smashing bugs, who have almost 0 human traits, it doesn’t bother us.
But as to what the point of beauty in nature is, wow. No clue. I mean, if you think sharks are beautiful, and go swimming with them, instant Darwin Award. I’m sure there are a million examples like that.

Yes, but I happen to find dolphins cuttier than sharks. A lot of people dislike snakes. Is it just random chance?

Masuimi Max? :wink:

I strongly agree with the theory Illinois_Boy advances. Also, I’m certain more people are “racially-mixed” than you might notice. My friend is a Spanish/Filipino, and when she mentioned her dad cooking paella, I was quite taken aback. :smack:


I remember that article (it was in Discover), and I believe RevTim has reported it accurately.

As to why we find the average attactive, my recollection (from the article) is that the “average” face will be more symmetrical, and facial symmetry is (supposedly) a mark of genetic health to which we are subconsciously attuned.

Dolphins smile. They have people-faces. They look “friendly”. Sharks are cool animals, but they have that dead-black-eye thing and they don’t smile.

Surreal, I don’t believe there is a factual answer to your question.

This is moved to IMHO.

General Questions Moderator

Is it possible you were remembering this Time Magazine Cover Story ??

I understand the O.P. and have sometimes felt that way- but then I see someone who appears- appears to be purely african, or asian, or caucasian and my breath is taken away and there goes that theory.

I would opine- and I really belive this thread belongs in IMHO- that not only is beauty in the eye of the beholder, but the beholder is programmed. If you grow up in a household/family/culture where only african people are beheld to be beautiful and any other skin color and physical feature is beheld to be NOT beautiful, then you will doubtless be inclined to see people in that light. It is human nature. ( Insert other primary races in the place of african, I just threw it in there, ok? )

My cousins are nominally african-american/white. They don’t just “pass” for black, they are what we in America regard as black folk. My kids are full-blooded Koreans, so I’ve grown up and now spend my time in a mixed-blood family. I get the exotic nature of mixing races and ethnic backgrounds, I’ve seen some stunners. Russell Simmons, musician and founder of Def-Jam records is married to Kimora Lee. She’s listed as " Asian/African-American
(Japanese-American mother/African-American father". I spent the day with her and her husband shooting an MTV Cribs, in 2001. It was…very difficult…not to…gape like a lovestruck teenager. :smiley: Sublimely stunning is one way to describe her.

Anywhoo, I’ve always thought that beauty was where you find it at the moment it strikes you.