A new study found that people with tattoos tend to exhibit more aggression and anger than people with no body ink. Viren Swami, a professor of social psychology at Anglia Ruskin University in England, enlisted 378 adults: 181 women and 197 men between the ages of 20 and 58.
97 of the participants having at least one tattoo. This equates to one in four people having a tattoo.
There were no significant differences in educational qualifications between tattooed and non-tattooed people. As tattoos have become more mainstream and popular, there was no “significant difference” in the social background either.
Professor Swami said: “We found that tattooed adults had significantly higher reactive rebelliousness, but not proactive rebelliousness, compared with non-tattooed adults.”
Participants were presented questions regarding how they would react to certain situations. The questions measured “proactive rebelliousness”.
If you are asked particularly not to do something, do you feel an urge to do it?
Those with tattoos were more likely to display “reactive rebelliousness” towards an authority figure who was scolding them. Professor Swami suggested that by accumulating tattoos in response to experiences, people will have “defiant” behaviour and in turn, will be more likely to react in defiance.
“One explanation is that people who have higher reactive rebelliousness may respond to disappointing and frustrating events by getting tattooed. That is, when these individuals experience a negative emotional event, they may be more likely to react by pursuing an act that is seen as defiant. The act of tattooing is perceived as rebellious, or more generally tattoos themselves can signify defiance or dissent.”
“Proactive rebelliousness” on the other hand is described as “hedonistic and goal-driven.” This is “at odds” with getting a tattoo because body art usually reflects “pain and permanence”.
People with tattoos however are no more likely to react with physical aggression.
The measures of aggression were self-reported – a major drawback on the conclusion of this study.