INTRODUCTION Perceptions of Body Modification: A Descriptive Study Children are told not to judge a book by its cover while adults discriminate against each other both personally and professionally based on appearance alone. Stereotypes exist about people with certain hair colors and those who choose to decorate their bodies with either tattoos or body piercing. While society accepts pierced earlobes, cartilage, nose and tongue piercing is considered freakish and weird. Others view a person as attractive until s/he takes off a jacket to reveal a tattoo on the arm. Those things that are unacceptable to society lead to stereotyping of personality traits. Someone walking down the street may be less likely to offer help or ask for help from someone with body modifications because that person may be perceived as being irresponsible, or radical behavior. Discrimination that exists in personal life may extend to professional life. In response to this unwarranted discrimination, Degelman and Price (2002) conducted a study in which one woman was pictured both with and without tattoos. College and high school students ranked the woman on 13 personal characteristics. When the woman’s tattoo was visible, she was rated more negatively than when her tattoo was covered. The study found no relationship between participants’ own level of body modifications and perceptions of the pictured woman. Because this study had participants rate the same woman with and without tattoos, it is clear that the only factor available to create the change in rating is her tattoo. In all other ways this was the same person with the same abilities and qualities. Another study, “Ink Me Stud.” (2001) further shows how body modifications can effect how a person is viewed. This study polled Americans’ views of tattooed people in an online survey. Notable findings of this poll include: 67% of participants viewed tattooed subjects as rebellious and 49% viewed them as “experimental.” Also, 85% of Americans polled believed that body modifications would have a negative impact on personal and professional relationships. These judgments were made about people when only viewing a picture. No behaviors, actions or education levels were considered in the survey. Participants clearly believed that they were able to predict the personality of strangers based on body decoration. It is likely that stereotypes in body modified subjects come more from a society-generated idea of what is beautiful and acceptable. While Eagly, Makhihani, Ashmore and Longo (1991) tried to find a consistent level of positive qualities assigned to attractive people. Although society tries to dictate an acceptable norm for beauty, the study was unable to find a consistent level of positive qualities assigned to attractive targets. Although many people say that what is beautiful is good, it is not always the case. One aspect of body modification that is rarely considered by the general public is that some modifications are representative of religious culture. While religious tattoos were not displayed in the pictured subjects of the new study, colleagues addressed this aspect of modification. An online article “Attitudes to Piercing” (2000) addresses the idea that Christian tradition forbids body modification. It is possible that western culture, which is dominated by sects of Christian religion, holds particular beliefs about modification because of this. Leviticus 19:28 says: “You shall not gash yourselves… you shall not tattoo yourselves.” (2000) Some westerners may hold misconceptions as an unconscious or conscience result of religious belief. A major concern of the researchers is that people with visible piercing are treated differently than those who have piercings in non-visible areas or not at all. In fact, those with piercings visible and non- visible should be grouped in the same category as opposed to grouping those non-visible piercings along with people with no piercing at all. Ferguson noted: “… most body piercing is hidden beneath the clothing of ordinary middle aged people.” This opposes the commonly held belief that pierced people are only those who are masochists. Ferguson also relays a story of hospital workers who did not want to give aid to a bleeding accident victim. The hospital workers believed that because of the patient’s piercings, he was likely to have aids or other diseases. The victim happened to be Ferguson himself. (1999)A survey of 134 pierced people revealed: “79% were aged 29 or over and 58% were married or in a long term relationship. Less than 20% saw themselves as masochistic, sadistic… and less than half saw themselves as adventurous.” (Ferguson 1999) While the researchers cannot account for the personal attributes of their pictured subjects, participants felt that they were able to, simply by viewing a photo. Durand and Barlow (2000) discuss body modifications under histrionic disorder in their abnormal psychology textbook. Here, those with body modifications are discussed as attention seeking. The authors speak of histrionic disorder and place body modified people as likely to be histrionic. Durand and Barlow claim that those with histrionic personality disorder use body modifications as a way to get attention from the around them in an effort to satisfy an appetite for attention. What these authors add to the area of body modification is that altering one’s body is the result of a personality dysfunction, which does not give a positive outlook from the public to those with body modifications. Although Degelman and Price (2002) did not find a relationship between participant modifications and ratings of picture, the researchers hoped that those who have, have had or are considering body modifications similar to those pictured would view them more positively than those who have not, do not or will have body modifications.Previous literature clearly shows that the general public has a tendency to view persons with body modifications negatively. This study was similar to Degelman and Price (2002) in that pictures show subjects both with and without modifications to compare ratings as opposed to “Ink Me Stud” (2001), which only asked questions about people with tattoos. Despite this study, the researchers hoped that those who have, have had or are considering body modifications similar to those pictured would view them more positively than those who have not, do not or will have body modifications. The greatest difference in comparing the new study to previous studies is that hair color is being considered a modification for the first time. The new study is the next step in this area of research because it expands the definition of body modification and rates a wide variety of pictures. This new study hoped to find a relationship between a participant’s type and amount of body modification and his/ her perceptions of pictured subjects. This study aims to find that college students perceive pictured subjects with greater body modifications as less desirable than those with fewer body modifications. Unnatural hair color was not considered a variable in any previous study. The researchers felt that this variable should be considered because it has an equally likely chance of being viewed negatively as tattoos and piercing.The term “body modifications” in our study refers to 1) tattoos 2) body piercing excluding the lobes of the ears and 3) unnaturally dyed hair color. Tattoos are any permanently inked designs on the skin. Body piercing refers to holes pierced into any flesh of the body. Earlobe piercing is excluded from the definition because this has become a socially acceptable practice. Piercing of the upper ear and ear cartilage is still considered as a piercing body modification because these are not as socially accepted as lobe piercing. Unnaturally dyed hair is defined as any hair color that is not found in nature for the purposes of this study. For example, hair that is dyed pink, blue, orange, yellow, purple or green. These are colors that are not naturally occurring for hair.We hoped to confirm in our study that personality judgments are made based on body modifications alone. The null hypothesis of this study is: Pictured subjects with body modifications will be rated no differently than pictured subjects with no visible body modifications. The research hypothesis of this study is: Participants will attribute more negative characteristics to pictured subjects with body modifications than to pictured subjects with no visible body modifications.
METHOD MethodParticipants One hundred and one Loyola University New Orleans and City College students participated in this survey. Participants received a picture to rate with a survey. These students were between the ages of 18 and 43 years old. The participants were recruited from the Psychology Department’s human participant pool and in individual psychology classes with permission of instructor. Some participants were offered course credit for participation. No one was discriminated against in choosing to participate and all participants were volunteers. Convenience sampling was used. Materials There were 2 categories, of pictures male and female with five sub categories of each for a total of ten different types of pictures. For both male and female there was at least one picture of a subject with: only visible tattoos, only visible piercing, only visibly unnaturally dyed hair color, combination of tattoos, piercing and dyed hair were considered the multiple modification group, and no body modifications was the final category. All pictures will only show subjects from the waist up and no nudity will be present. (see appendix A)The researchers modified Lippa’s Health and Personality survey that measures: Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness, Neuroticism and Conscientiousness. (2002) The survey originally asked participants to rate themselves on a scale of 48 questions that would measure the five characteristics above on five point likert scale that the researchers modified. The researchers changed the original survey from “I see myself as someone who…” to “I see this person as someone who…” The modified survey measured the participants’ perception of the pictured subjects Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness. (see appendix B)Design and Procedure The design of this study is 2x8x2 between subjects. The independent variables were: sex of participant (male or female), body modification type (tattoo only, piercing only, unnaturally dyed hair only, multiple modification and no modification), and body modifications of participant (yes or no). In an effort to control for extraneous variables, the researchers refrained from asking questions about the participants own level of body modification until after all questions about the pictured subject had been answered. The researchers hoped that this would prevent participants from recognizing the hypothesis. The researchers also felt that by having different pictured subjects that fit into each modification category, participants would have an equal chance of getting a pictured subject that they found either attractive or unattractive or acceptable or unacceptable. Participants volunteered for this study by either signing up on lists on the psychology department’s bulletin board or on lists passed around in psychology classes. Sign up sheets listed specific dates, times and locations of study. Volunteers were asked to leave either an email address or telephone number so that the researchers could remind them of the study 24 hours in advance. Leaving contact information was not required. After being reminded of the study, participants arrived atthe specified location on the specified day, and at the specified time. Upon arrival, participants received two informed consent forms, one for the researchers’ records and the other to keep. After completing the informed consent forms, participants received one 48-question survey and demographic survey along with one picture. Participants were given as much time as needed to complete the survey. No one took longer than fifteen minutes to complete the survey. Upon completion of the survey, participants were debriefed.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION Results Participants consisted of 65 females and 35 males college students for a total of 101 participants. We hypothesized that pictures of non- modified subjects would be rated more positively in the five personality categories than modified subjects. If the null hypothesis of this study is: Pictured subjects with body modifications will be rated no differently than pictured subjects with no body modifications, then we fail to reject the null hypothesis because there is a difference in the ratings of modified and un modified subject. Using one-way ANOVA analyses, we did find a significant difference between group ratings in openness (F= 15.80, p< .001). Post hoc analyses using Least Significance Differences test showed that those with no modifications were rated less open to new experiences than the pictured subjects with modifications. The first hypothesis was not supported for the category of openness even though it was supported across all categories. This result was the opposite of what the researchers expected. Using one-way ANOVA analyses, a significant difference was found in the means of extraversion levels of pictured subjects with tattoos only and those with only unnaturally dyed hair color. The tattooed subjects were viewed higher in extraversion than the hair color subjects. (F= 2.72, p<.05)A marginally significant result was found when sex of subject was compared to modification. Univariate Analyses of Variance found that both males and females with tattoos were seen as more masculine than their non-modified counterparts. For males personality (F= 21.63, p<.00`, df=1) and appearance (F= 20.24, p<.001, df=1) were both seen as more masculine in tattooed subjects than non-modified subjects. Females showed a similar trend in both personality (F=32.51, p<.001, df= 1) and appearance (F= 21.91, P<.001, df= 1) with tattooed subjects also being rated higher in masculinity than non-modified subjects. Those tattooed subjects, both male and female who were rated highly in masculine personality and appearance were also rated low in feminine personality and appearance. The unmodified participants, both male and female were also rated higher in feminine personality and appearance. No other modification showed a significant effect on masculine or feminine ratings for either gender. We also hypothesized that participants with modifications would rate modified subjects more positively compared to participants’ without modifications. We fail to reject the null hypothesis that there is a difference in the positive and negative ratings of pictures based on the participant’s own modifications. No significant difference between modified and unmodified participant’s ratings of pictured subjects was found. Finally, a marginally significant relationship between sex and openness was found. women were viewed as more open to new experiences than men (F= 3.83, p= .054). DiscussionThe present research investigated the relationship of college students’ perceptions of personality traits linked to body modifications. Results suggest that participants viewed people with modifications as more open to new experiences than those without body modifications. Results also suggest that participants view those with tattoos, both male and female as more masculine in both personality and appearance and less feminine in personality and appearance than those with different or no body modifications. It can be inferred from these results that the sample population views people with tattoos as more masculine and less feminine than their non- modified counterparts. While we failed to reject the two null hypotheses, this may be due to differences in pictures rather than actual differences in modifications. This could have been better controlled for if we had used a single male and a single female picture and used computer technology to alter the modifications of each subject. Instead the pictures used included males and females in different poses, at different angles, and from varying distances from the camera. Each picture may have also been judged based on attractiveness rather than modification and under these conditions there is no way to know which was being rated. This was found to be a major confound because the female subject with unnaturally dyed hair color was rated lower in extraversion than any other category. This confound is most likely the driving force in the significant difference between the extraversion ratings of the hair and tattoo categories. For further research, using exactly ten pictures, one for each category, would greatly control the reliability of results. Using pictures with similar poses, facial expression and from comparable camera angles would also less room for error. The finding of openness as significantly higher in modified subjects is a positive sign for this area of research. While the researchers hypothesized that modified subjects would be rated more negatively, having a higher rating in openness show that they were actually viewed in a positive light. It is also clear that the sample population did not have a general view of modified subjects as negative nor a an overwhelming view of non- modified subjects as positive. The implications of this research support the idea that college students value open mindedness. However, the results also showed a high stereotyping of tattooed people as masculine, regardless of sex, which can be interpreted as positive or negative depending on who is being considered.
REFERENCES References “Attitudes to Piercing.” http://www.bmezine.com/pierce/articles/p&mp/attitudes/html. Degelman and Price. “Tattoos and ratings of personal characteristics.” Psychological Reports, April 2002. 90, 507-514Durand, V.M. and Barlow, D.H. (2001). Personality Disorders. In Taflinger (Ed.), Abnormal Psychology (pp. 264-265). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/ Thomson Learning. ,Eagly, Alice H., Makhijani, Mona G., Ashmore, Richard D., Longo, Laura C. (1991). What is beautiful is good, but …: a meta- analytic review of research on the physical attractiveness stereotype. 110, 109-129. Ferguson, Henry. Body Piercing. British Medical Journal, 319, 1627Forbes, Gordon B. “College Students with tattoos and piercings: motives, family experiences, personality factors, and perception by others.” Psychological Reports, Dec 2001. 89,774-786“Ink Me Stud.” American Demographics, Dec 2001, 9.Needleman, Sarah E. “What Will Employers Think of Your Body Art?” www.black-colegian.com/career/wsj/bodyart802.shtml. (2000)
APPENDIX Appendix A PicturesIncluded here are examples of pictures used in the study. Overall there were 16 different types of pictures used:1. female no body modifications2. male no body modifications3. female tattoo only4. male tattoo only5. female piercing only6. male piercing only7. female hair modification only8. male modification only9. female tattoo and piercing10. male tattoo and piercing11. female tattoo and hair12. male tattoo and hair13. female hair and piercing14. male hair and piercing15. female hair, tattoo and piercing16. male hair tattoo and piercingEach participant received only one picture to rate.
Appendix BSurveyPart I Demographic Information
Sex (CIRCLE ONE):: MALE FEMALE
ETHNICITY: (CHECK EACH ONE THAT DESCRIBES YOUR ETHNIC BACKGROUND):
_____ White/ Caucasian _____ African American _____Hispanic/ Latin
_____ Asian American _____ Other- please describe: _______________________
What is your class status (circle only one)
FR SO JR SR
Where do you live (circle only one)
ON CAMPUS OFF CAMPUS
Are you member of a Greek organization? __________
If yes, is it social, service, or honors? __________
Please list the names of all Greek letter organizations of which you are a member: ________________________________________________________________________
What is your major? _______________________________________________________
Do These Characteristics Apply to the Subject Pictured?
Below are a number of characteristics. Please rate how much you agree or disagree that a given characteristic applies to the subject pictured.
This section contains several statements regarding characteristics of the person pictured. Please use the scale below to indicate your degree of agreement with each statement based on the picture by writing the appropriate number in the blank to the left of each statement. Please do not skip any statement.1 2 3 4 5 6 7Strongly Agree Slightly Neither Agree Slightly Disagree StronglyAgree Agree nor Disagree Disagree Disagree
I see this person as someone who …
1. _____ is talkative. 2. _____ tends to find fault with others. 3. _____ does a thorough job. 4. _____ is depressed and blue. 5. _____ is original and comes up with new ideas. 6. _____ is reserved. 7. _____ is helpful and unselfish with others.
8. _____ can be somewhat careless. 9. _____ is relaxed and handles stress well.
10. _____is curious about many different things. 11. _____ is full of energy. 12. _____ starts quarrels with others. 13. _____ is a reliable worker. 14. _____ can be tense. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7Strongly Agree Slightly Neither Agree Slightly Disagree StronglyAgree Agree nor Disagree Disagree Disagree
I see this person as someone who…
15. _____ is ingenious and a deep thinker. 16. _____ generates a lot of enthusiasm.
17. _____ has a forgiving nature. 18. _____ tends to be disorganized. 19. _____ worries a lot. 20. _____ has an active imagination. 21. _____ tends to be quiet. 22. _____ is generally trusting. 23. _____ tends to be lazy. 24. _____ is emotionally stable and not easily upset. 25. _____ is inventive. 26. _____ has an assertive personality. 27. _____ can be cold and aloof. 28. _____ perseveres until the task is finished. 29. _____ can be moody. 30. _____ values artistic and aesthetic experiences. 31. _____ is sometimes shy and inhibited. 32. _____ is considerate and kind to almost everyone. 33. _____ does things efficiently. 34. _____ remains calm in tense situations.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7Strongly Agree Slightly Neither Agree Slightly Disagree Strongly Agree Agree nor Disagree Disagree Disagree
I see this person as someone who…
35. _____ prefers work that is routine. 36. _____ is outgoing and sociable.
37. _____ is sometimes rude to others. 38. _____ makes plans and follows through with them. 39. _____ gets nervous easily. 40. _____ likes to reflect and play with ideas. 41. _____ has few artistic interests. 42. _____ likes to cooperate with others. 43. _____ is easily distracted. 44. _____ is sophisticated in art, music, and literature. 45. _____ has a masculine personality. 46. _____ has a feminine personality. 47. _____ acts, appears, and comes across to others as masculine.
48. _____ acts, appears, and comes across to others as feminine.
Please briefly describe the person shown in the attached picture:________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Do you currently have any of the following (check all that apply): ____ hair dyed an unnatural color (a color that does not occur in nature: blue, pink, green etc. This does not include if your hair is dyed a natural color: blonde, brown, red.) ___ any body piercings (other than earlobes only) ____any tattoos ___noneHave you ever had any of the following in the past (check all that apply):____ hair dyed an unnatural color (a color that does not occur in nature: blue, pink, green etc. This does not include if your hair is dyed a natural color: blonde, brown, red.) ___ any body piercings (other than earlobes only)____any tattoos ___noneAre you considering getting any of the following (check all that apply):____ hair dyed an unnatural color (a color that does not occur in nature: blue, pink, green etc. This does not include if your hair is dyed a natural color: blonde, brown, red.) ___ any body piercings (other than earlobes only)____any tattoos ___none