A new study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology reveals that some people still are uncomfortable and feel disgust against mixed-race couples despite the positive perception of interracial marriage as shown in polls. The study’s researchers from the University of Washington state that this disgust causes the couples to be dehumanized, and acknowledging these feelings is the first step towards solving this problem.

The research team conducted three experiments. Initially, they asked 152 college students questions regarding relationships, their willingness to be part of interracial relationships and how disgusted they felt about such relationships. Generally, these participants accepted interracial relationships and had low levels of disgust about such couples.

The team then recorded the brain activity of 19 undergraduates when they were presented with wedding and engagement photos of 200 same-race and interracial couples. The researchers found that the participants’ insula, which is associated with perception and experience of disgust, were more likely to get activated when they saw pictures of interracial couples. This demonstrates that interracial couples evoked disgust.

The third experiment involved the use of an implicit association test, which measured the beliefs and attitudes that people are unwilling to acknowledge. Two groups of participants had to categorize photographs of couples, interracial and same-race couples, as well as silhouettes of animals and humans.

At first, the participants were asked to press one computer key if it shows the interracial couple or the animal silhouette and another if it was same-race couple or human silhouette. These combinations were switched afterward so they had to press one key if it was same-race couple and animal silhouette and another if it was a photo of a mixed-race couple or a human silhouette.

The researchers observed that the participants were quicker to associate mixed-raced couples with animals and same-race couples with human silhouettes. According to them, this shows that interracial couples are more likely to be dehumanized. The team cites that people generally tend to behave more aggressively toward dehumanized subjects.

The researchers also say that the findings is exemplified when a Washington Post article by Richard Cohen stated that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s interracial marriage caused a gag reflex. Overall, the study indicates that the polls showing how interracial couples are increasingly accepted in society could be false after all.