Tattoos can harm perceptions: a study and suggestions

J Am Coll Health. Mar-Apr 2008;56(5):593-6. doi: 10.3200/JACH.56.5.593-596.


Objective: Health researchers have claimed that perceptions toward a person with a tattoo are more negative than are perceptions toward nontattooed persons. However, support for this has been obtained almost completely by nonexperimental research.

Participants: In 2 experiments with 158 community college student participants, the authors found that tattoos harmed perceptions.

Methods: Students viewed a photograph of a female model with and without a visible tattoo, and rated her on 13 personal characteristics.

Results: In Experiment 1, ratings of a model with a dragon tattoo were significantly more negative (p < .05) on 5 of the 13 personal characteristics than were ratings of the same model shown without the tattoo. In Experiment 2, which included different participants, a different model, and a different tattoo, the authors found that a dolphin tattoo led to more negative ratings on 2 of the 13 characteristics.

Conclusions: The authors discuss possible impacts of tattoos on person perception as well as implications of the results for college student healthcare providers.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Perception*
  • Prejudice*
  • Students / psychology*
  • Tattooing / psychology*
  • United States
  • Universities*