A tattoo is defined as “permanent marks or designs inserted on the skin by puncturing it and inserting pigments” (Todd, 2018, p. 6). Indeed, a tattoo is mechanically and structurally a mere mark or design on one’s body. However, tattoo is often regarded as something with purpose, like a sort of body art. Thus, a tattoos are also defined as “a worldwide medium of expression” and “marks of human identity” (Todd, 2018, p. 6). This essay writer is where most of the disagreement lies as there will always be people who would dislike tattoos. In the late 1990s, there had been a “tattoo renaissance,” when tattoos have become increasingly popular even among well-educated people and professionals (Nichols & Foster, 2005, p. 4).
Nonetheless, the general impression regarding tattoos and tattooed people is negative. Broussard and Harton (2017) concluded that tattooed people are perceived as “stronger and more independent” but “more negatively overall” (p. 15). Moreover, tattooing is usually associated with “anti-social tendencies and psychopathology” or having a “mad, bad, or perverted” personality (Nichols & Foster, 2005, p. 4).
Non-tattooed people are the ones who generally perceive tattoos and tattooed people as negative. This is because negative stereotypes about tattooed persons bring about generalizations that would include all tattooed individuals (Broussard & Harton, 2017, p. 17). In fact, children, who are always assumed to be non-tattooed, are more likely to regard as criminals those with tattoos than those without tattoos. This is because most cartoons and caricatures of people with weapons also have tattoos (Burgess & Clark, 2010, p. 747).
Tattooed and non-tattooed people may be different in their opinions of people with tattoos. Broussard and Harton (2017) concluded that “tattooed persons may sometimes be more accepting of others with tattoos” and that tattooed individuals tend to “view each other more positively” (p. 2). Moreover, tattooed people usually have fewer “endorsed stereotypes” about the tattooed than non-tattooed people do (p. 2). In addition, tattooed individuals have a more favorable attitude towards other tattooed people and see them as mere parts of the “tattoo culture” (p. 2).
However, it is interesting to note that not all the time that tattooed people favor other people with tattoos. Sometimes, “tattooed individuals may sometimes form an in-group in the basis of their tattoo status” and may criticize those with unconcealed tattoos, overly trendy ones, or those lacking in authenticity (Broussard & Harton, 2017, p. 3). Indeed, this is one reason why some tattooed individuals would dislike other people with tattoos.
Moreover, other factors that may affect one’s judgment of a person with tattoos include the type of tattoo and its artistic content or the lack of it (Nichols & Foster, 2005, p. 8-9). Another factor would be the value system of the observer, whether it is collectivist or individualist (Chiu et al., 2014, p. 124). A third factor would be commercial appeal of the tattoo (Bradley, 2012, p. 69). Gender would be another factor, especially in some places where women are discriminated if they have tattoos but men are not (Koljonen & Kluger, 2011, p. 688). The tattoo design, on whether it is cute or tribal, may also be a consideration (Burgess & Clark, 2010, p. 760). One last factor in judging people with tattoos is how the meaning of the tattoo appeals to the observer (Madfis & Arford, 2013, p. 552).
Nonetheless, we predicted that observers would form less favorable first impressions of tattooed people compared to non-tattooed people. However, we predicted that tattooed observers would have less of this bias compared to non-tattooed observers.
The study had a total of 251 participants chosen by convenience sampling. Among these there were 33 (13.1%) men and 216 (86.1% women). Two participants (0.8%) indicated their gender as “other.”
Among these participants, 79 (31.5%) had tattoos while 172 (68.5%) did not have tattoos.
Regarding age, the mean age was 33.56 while the standard deviation was 15.46, with the minimum age at 13 and the maximum at 99.
Twelve pictures of people who had tattoos and who did not have tattoos, six for each category, were used in conducting the study.
Variables. The study c0nsidered two independent variables (IV). The first one (IV1) was the pictures of people with and without tattoos shown to the participants. The second (IV2) was whether or not the participants had tattoos. The dependent variable (DV) was the first impression scores. This was the sum of the ratings for how professional, approachable, and intelligent the persons in the pictures were perceived by the participants. A lower score corresponded to a poor first impression while a higher score meant a favorable first impression. First impression scores ranged from 3 to 21.
Experimental Design. The design was a 2×2 design that put side by side the two levels of the first IV (pics with tattoos and pics without tattoos) and the two levels of the second IV (participants with tattoos and participants without tattoos). As a repeated measures design, each participant rated both the Tattoo pictures and the No Tattoo pictures while the participants were only in one level of IV2, i.e. they either had tattoos or they did not have tattoos. This makes IV1 a repeated measures variable and IV2 a between groups variable. The presence of both repeated measures variables and between groups variables such as in this case results in a mixed model design. Specifically, the design for this study was a 2×2 mixed model design.
Actual Procedure. Participants rated their first impressions of 6 pictured people who had tattoos and their first impressions of 6 people who did not have tattoos. For each picture, they rated how professional, approachable, and intelligent the person seemed to be to them using a Likert scale, where 1 meant “not at all” and 7 meant “very.” The three ratings were to create an overall first impression score. Participants yielded a first impression score for each of the 12 pictures that they viewed.
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In analyzing the 2×2 mixed model design, Factorial ANOVA was run. Factorial ANOVA allows one to examine how two different IVs influence a DV. Thus, through Factorial ANOVA, one could see how both the participant’s tattoo conditions and the tattoo conditions of the pictures influence the first impression scores. Also, through this, one could see if those IVs interact with each other to influence first impression scores.
The hypothesis was that people would give lower first impression scores to the photos of people with tattoos than they would give to photos of people without tattoos. However, the researcher predicted that only participants without tattoos will have this negative bias against tattooed people. Moreover, it was hypothesized that tattooed participants would have no such bias.
As data was plotted on a graph, the results showed support for the hypothesis. Overall, participants had less favorable first impressions of the tattooed people in the pictures. However, while tattooed participants had this bias, the bias was not as strong. This is shown by the relatively smaller difference between the first impressions of tattooed pictured people and non-tattooed pictured people by tattooed participants.
The means for the four conditions were as follows. Non-tattooed pictures rated by tattooed participants had mean ratings of 16.601 (SD = 2.655).
Non-tattooed pictures rated by non-tattooed participants had mean ratings of 17.1860 (SD = 1.961).
Tattooed pictures rated by tattooed participants had mean ratings of 15.2532 (SD = 3.1925).
Tattooed pictures rated by non-tattooed participants had mean ratings of 14.4700 (SD = 3.1441).
There was not a significant main effect of participant tattoo condition, so tattooed and non-tattooed participants provided fairly equivalent first impression ratings (F(1,249)=0.098, p=.755).
There was a significant main effect of picture tattoo condition, where non-tattooed people in the pictures were given significantly higher first impression ratings than pictures of tattooed people (F(1,249)=113.837, p<.001).
There was also a significant interaction effect, where the effect of picture tattoo condition on first impression ratings depended on whether the participant had tattoos or not (F(1,249)=12.897, p<.001).
One important point to consider here is the significance of the main effect of picture tattoo condition, where non-tattooed people in the pictures gained a significantly higher first impression compared to tattooed ones. Thus, this proves that there is indeed a general negative first impression on people who have tattoos. Thus, it is possible that the people with tattoos in the pictures have been perceived “negatively overall” regardless of gender or age (Broussard & Harton, 2017, p. 15). It is also possible that the tattooed people in the pictures were generally considered “perverted” and “antisocial” (Nichols & Foster, 2005, p. 4).
It is also important to note the significance of the interaction effect, where the presence or absence of tattoos on the participant significantly determined the first impression that he or she had on the pictures of tattooed people. This must be due to the fact that non-tattooed people usually have more “negative stereotypes about tattooed persons” (Broussard & Harton, 2017, p. 17). Moreover, non-tattooed people, including children, perceive tattooed individuals as “criminal,” “delinquent,” or “violent” in their first impressions (Burgess & Clark, 2010, p. 747).
Lastly, it is equally interesting to note the lack of significant difference in the main effect of participant tattoo condition. Thus, tattooed and non-tattooed participants provided fairly equivalent ratings for first impression on both tattooed and non-tattooed people in pictures. In fact, the average first impression ratings from tattooed participants was 15.9 while for non-tattooed participants, it was 15.8. Such a very small difference of 0.1 indicates a lack of significance. This somehow affirms the theory that, at times, tattooed people sometimes harbor “negative explicit or implicit attitudes” towards other people with tattoos (Broussard & Harton, 2017, p. 3). The reasons could vary from a criticism of large, unconcealed tattoos to ones that lack an authentic value (p. 3). It could also be the claim that certain tattoos are “trivial and shallow” (Nichols & Foster, 2005, p. 8).
The findings show that the discrimination and stigma against people with tattoos are still existent. It may take time before non-tattooed people would have a less negative impression of people with tattoos. At the same time, tattooed people cannot totally rely on their tattooed fellows as many tattooed people may have high standards for their tattoos and may frown upon those who do not live up to such standards.
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Burgess, M., and Clark, L. (2010). Do the “Savage Origins” of Tattoos Cast a Prejudicial Shadow on Contemporary Tattooed Individuals? Journal of Applied Social Psychology 40(3), 746-764.
Chiu, S., Tu, J., Hsu, C., and Chuang, L. (2014). Analysis of Differences in Lifestyle and Tattoo Culture Acceptance Between Taiwan and China. International Journal of Affective Engineering 13(2), 115-125.
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Nichols, H., and Foster, D. (2005). Embodied Identities and Positional Choices: How Tattooees Construct Identity and Negotiate a Tattooed Status Within Society. PINS 32(1), 1-23.
Todd, K. (2018). Deeper than the Surface: Analyzing Tattoos in a Modernized World. Royal Road 2(1), 6-15.