Dissertations and Theses

Date of Award


Document Type




First Advisor

Tiffany Floyd


Skin color bias, Halo effect, Attractiveness stereotype, South Asian, Desi, Attractiveness, Personality, Mate selection, Mate preference


Skin color bias is present in South Asia and is especially apparent within the Desi (i.e., South Asian) marriage market, where explicit preferences for fair-skinned marital partners are made and lighter skin is perceived as more attractive. It is also known that, through the halo effect, attractive people are perceived to possess positive personality traits. The present study aimed to determine if skin color is associated with long-term mate preference among U.S.-based Desi adults as it is among Desi in South Asia, and if so, if that relationship is mediated by perceived attractiveness. It also aimed to determine if, in addition to a direct effect on partner desirability, attractiveness also exerts an indirect effect as mediated by personality judgment. A total of 78 CUNY students of Desi background were asked to rate visual stimuli of the opposite sex in different skin tones on attractiveness, personality, and partner desirability. Findings revealed that skin tone did not predict partner desirability for Desis, but attractiveness did exert a strong direct effect: those rated as more attractive were also rated more desirable as a longer-term romantic partner. Attractive individuals were also generally judged to possess more positive personality traits relative to those rated as less attractive; however, the relationship between attractiveness and partner desirability was not mediated by perceived personality. Results contribute to understanding the partner preferences of Desi-Americans.



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