What Does A Tattoo Say About You?

A (semi) scientific answer

I’ve always wanted to be the type of person who has a tattoo. That person rides a Harley, plays drums in a band, and leads a more badass life than the one I have now.

History of Tattoos in 30 Seconds

Tattoos are not new.

So how do we REALLY view people with tattoos?

If tattoos are common, do we perceive people with tattoos just like everyone else? Two researchers tested just that by asking 2,500 Polish men and women to rate pictures of men with and without tattoos.

Tattoo Meanings

After reading these studies, I examined my own biases around tattoos. Rationally, I believe people are free to do whatever they want with their bodies. Yet despite trying to keep an open mind, I still make snap judgements about people based off their ink. When I meet someone with a world map tattoo, I assume they did a study abroad trip during college that just “changed their life.” And when I see someone with a tribal tattoo at the gym, I assume there is a higher likelihood that they’ll be getting a tan and doing laundry afterwards.

Is Mike’s Tattoo a Good Decision?

First, who was filling out my survey? I got 410 US respondents, 58% of whom were female, 40% were male, and the remaining 2% “Other”. Knowing that roughly 40% of the US population is inked up, my survey participants were somewhat representative with 38% claiming to have at least one tattoo.

But why did Mike get a tattoo?

Clearly I wasn’t alone in judging tattoos by their deeper meanings. However, are all meanings created equal? In Mike’s case, honoring a loved one is one of many possible reasons to get a tattoo. Would people have judged Mike’s tattoo as positively if he got the tattoo to celebrate a trip or with a bunch of friends?

  1. Mike wants the tattoo because he sees it as a piece of artwork and self-expression.
  2. Mike is with a group of friends who have all decided to get matching tattoos to symbolize their friendship.
  3. Mike wants the tattoo because it is a symbol that reminds him to be confident and to believe in himself.
  4. Mike wants the tattoo to symbolize a backpacking trip through Africa where he learned to be confident and to believe in himself.
  5. Mike wants the tattoo because it honors his recently deceased grandfather who inspired him to be confident and believe in himself.
  1. Artwork & Self-Expression
  2. Honor Grandfather
  3. Symbol & Reminder / Looks Good (Tie)
  4. Friendship
  1. Trip to Africa/Symbol & Reminder (Tie)
  2. Self-Expression/Look Good (Tie)
  3. Friendship

Give it to me straight: should I get a tattoo?

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