Tattoo or taboo? Tattoo stigma and negative attitudes toward tattooed individuals

J Soc Psychol. 2018;158(5):521-540. doi: 10.1080/00224545.2017.1373622. Epub 2017 Nov 8.


Tattoos are common in the United States; however, tattooed persons may be perceived as having more negative character and as more deviant than people without tattoos. College students (Study 1) and community members (Study 2) viewed images of men and women with tattoos or the same images with the tattoos digitally removed and rated the targets' characteristics. Half of the participants viewed a target with a tattoo, and half viewed that target without it, allowing for both within- (participants all rated one male and one female target with a tattoo and another without) and between-participants (participants rated either the tattooed or non-tattooed version of a single target) comparisons. Tattooed targets, especially women, were rated as stronger and more independent, but were rated more negatively on other character attributes than the same target images with the tattoos removed. The stigma associated with tattoos appears to still exist, despite the prevalence of tattoos in modern culture.

Keywords: Gender; stereotypes; stigma; tattoo.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Social Perception*
  • Social Stigma*
  • Stereotyping*
  • Taboo
  • Tattooing / psychology*
  • Young Adult