Body modification has been practiced for thousands of years all over the world (Greif, Hewitt & Armstrong, 1999). It has changed from a practice which was once considered taboo, to a widely accepted art form (DeMello, 1995). Although body modification, such as tattoos and piercings, have been thought to have been signs of deviance, over the past 20 years they have begun to filter into mainstream culture (Hewitt, 1997). In today’s society, many people are using their bodies as their canvas to express their personal identity or make a statement of self by tattooing and piercing (Caplan, 2000). We cannot be completely sure how many people have body modifications because it is commonly a private practice but it has been reported that between 7 million and 20 million adults have modified their body. Other reports say 25% of 15 to 25-year-olds have body modification (Geif, Hewitt, & Armstrong, 1999). Although this practice is becoming widely accepted, that does not mean there are not stereotypes of those who choose to modify their body with tattoos and body piercings. A survey about this was conducted by Valut.com, an online management site. Out of 500 employers surveyed, more than half said they were less likely to hire people with visible tattoos or body piercings (Garza, 2001). Employers commonly share this opinion because tattoos and piercings are most commonly associated with deviance, rebelliousness, or risky behavior. Forbes, who surveyed college students on the motivations for body modification, reported participants who had tattoos and piercings admitted to have taken part in more risky behaviors than people who had not modified their body. (2001). In another study, which surveyed college students about their body modification practices, 39% reported having used recreational drugs and 24% reported daily cigarette use (Greif, Hewitt, & Armstrong, 1999). Another Study, which specifically looked at behavioral and self-concept differences between tattooed and non-tattooed students, reported that body modification was associated with somewhat deviant or risky behaviors showed that students with tattoos smoke more cigarettes. If they were male, they had more sexual partners and were more likely to have been arrested and if they were female, they were more likely to have used drugs and shoplifted (Drews, Allison, & Probst, 2000). Many studies have been done concerning body modification. Most studies done on body modification have dealt with the correlation between body modification and risky behavior. However, a study has yet to be done which attempts to find a correlation between body modification and academic performance, more specifically GPA. This study strived to find just that, correlation between body modification, specifically tattoos and body piercings, and grade point average. Based on previous research, it was hypothesized that there would be a negative correlation between body modification and GPA, in that the more piercings and tattoos the lower one’s GPA would be.
Participants Participants in this study included 75 Loyola University New Orleans students. Participants included 41 females and 34 males between the ages of 18 and 23. All participants in this study were volunteers. Some participants were recruited from the Psychology Human Participants Pool by signing up on a sheet posted on the psychology board and by convenience sampling. Materials Informed consent forms were used containing information about procedures, benefits and risks of participating, an explanation how to acquire the results of the research, availability of counseling services, voluntary participation, and contact information of the researchers. The purpose of the study was also on the consent form. Additional materials included a self-compiled survey (see appendix). The survey included six demographic questions which included GPA. The survey also included a section in which the participant was asked to list how many piercings and tattoos they has and where they were on their body. Earlobe piercings were excluded. A personality survey was also included to see if there were significant differences between those with body modification and those without. This survey was a Likert scale in which there were 15 adjective pairs. The participants were asked to select the number along the scale that most closely describes them or their preferences. Design and Procedure The research design of this study was non-experimental and correlational as it studied the relationship between the presence of body modifications and GPA. The variables in this study were body modification, which could range from no body modification to more than two body modifications, and GPA. As participants arrived they were asked to have a seat and sign two informed consent forms. One was to be turned into the researcher and one was to be kept for the participant. After obtaining informed consent, the researcher gave each participant a survey packet and explained that they may cease participation at any time. The researcher then asked the participants to please read the directions carefully and fill out both the demographic and body modification sections of the survey to the best of their ability. After the surveys were completed and turned in the researchers debriefed the participants and told them that the study was actually looking for a correlation between body modification and GPA. The participants were than asked if they had any questions and thanked for their cooperation.
A Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient showed there was no significant relationship between the GPA and body modification (r = -.131). This does not support the hypothesis of a negative correlation between GPA and body modification. Another Pearson Product-moment correlation coefficient was run on body modifications and sex which showed a significant relationship (r = -.336). A T-test was performed and indicated a significant difference between the number of body modifications males had (M = .53, SD = .83) and the number of body modifications females had (M = 1.07, SD = .72). Females reported having significantly more body modifications than males ( p< .003, df = 74). No other significant differences in personality or demographics were found between participants with and without body modifications.
The hypothesis was not supported. There was no correlation found between GPA and body modification. Although there was no previous research in this area, it was suspected that this study would yield results similar to research done concerning body modifications and risky behavior. Risky behavior and body modifications had a positive correlation in previous research, therefore, body modification and GPA would have a negative correlation (Drews, Allison, & Probst, 2000). Results show no relationship between the two variables. It is possible though that these results are due to the limitations of this study. There were many limitations in this study because it was not representative of all people with body modifications. This study was limited to undergraduate students attending Loyola University New Orleans. These students all have similar qualities and therefore there was not much variation among participants. Students with a GPA lower than 2.0 were not represented at all in the sample. There could be two possible explanations for this. One, students with a GPA lower than 2.0 are unlikely to volunteer for a psychology study. Two, because Loyola University is a competitive school, students are required to keep a sufficient GPA to continue attending school. A correlation maybe found if this study was replicated with a more diverse sample. Another limitation of this study was the personality portion of the survey. The directions instructed participants to select the number along the scale that most closely describes them or their preferences. It is possible that some participants, who were familiar with Likert scales, ignored the directions and went straight to completing the survey. If this happened, the participants would not have known that the scale was not only assessing themselves but also their preferences. Participants could also have misunderstood certain adjective pairs. Limitations such as participant laziness and boredom could have contributed to the results of the study as well. Also, because body modification is often a private practice, it is possible that although they were informed of the anonymity of their answers some participants chose not to disclose the information about their body modifications. Also, participants may have figured out before being debriefed that the study was looking for a correlation between GPA and body modifications. If this happened it is possible that participants answered the survey in a different way than they would have if they did not know the true reason for the study. Because of the numerous limitations of this study it does not have very high validity. Even without high validity, this study opens the door to research concerning GPA and body modification which had not been done before. If this study was repeated with a larger sample, which was more representative of the population, the results would be much more accurate and possibly different. Results of this study can inform those who have modified their body or are considering body modification about certain characteristics body modification commonly correlates with. This information can also help people understand the stereotypes about body modification and if they have any truth behind them. Body modification has become a common art form in today’s society. This study did not find a relationship between body modification and GPA. Unfortunately, this study could not confirm or deny the negative stigmas that are associated with body modifications. But, with further research in this area we maybe able to positively state whether those stigmas are true or false.
Caplan, J. (Ed.). (2000). Written on the body: the tattoo in European and American history. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.DeMello, M. (1995). Not Just for Bikers Anymore: Popular Representations of American Tattooing. Journal of Popular Culture, 29, 37-52.Drews, D.R., Allison, C.K., & Probst, J.R. (2000). Behavioral and Self-Concept Differences in Tattooed and Nontattooed College Students. Psychological Reports, 86, 475-481. Forbes, G.B. (2001). College Students with Tattoos and Piercings: Motives, Family Experiences, Personality Factors, and Perception by Others. Psychological Reports, 89, 774-786.Garza, R. (2001). Marked For Unemployment. Daily Texan . Retrieved March 1, 2003, from http://navisite.collegeclub.com/servlet/channels.ChannelArticleServlet?areaid=7&articled=14Greif, J., Hewitt, W., & Armstrong, M.L. (1999). Tattooing and Body Piercing. Clinical- Nursing Research, 8, 368-385. Hewitt, K. (1997). Mutilating the Body: Identity in Blood and Ink. Bowling green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press.
AppendixSurvey QuestionsThank you for agreeing to answer this survey. Your answers will be kept anonymous. Please answer all questions to the best of your ability. A. How many piercings, excluding ears, do you have? ____________B. Please fill in the appropriate information in the table. Column 1 is for the body part where each piercing is located, and column 2 is to record the number of piercings at each body part. You may continue onto the back of the paper if space be needed.Example:Body Part Number of PiercingsNavel 1Eyebrow 1
Body Part Number of Piercings ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ C. How many tattoos do you have? ________________D. Please fill in the appropriate information in the table. Column 1 is for the body part where each tattoo is located, and column 2 is to record the number of tattoos at each body part. You may continue onto the back of the paper if space be needed.
Example:Body Part Number of TattoosForearm 2Ankle 1
Body Part Number of Tattoos________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
E. Demographic InformationWe also need some demographic information about you. Remember, all of your answers will be kept confidential.What year are you (ranking)?
What is your age?
What is your major?
What is your sex?
What is your ethnic background?
B. Caucasian C. Hispanic
D. African American
Which GPA range is closest to your own? A. 0-0.5 B. 0.6-1.0 C. 1.1-1.5 D. 1.6-2.0 E. 2.1-2.5 F. 2.6-3.0 G. 3.1-3.5 F. 3.6-4.0
F. Listed below is a set of 15 adjective pairs. For each, select the number along the scale that most closely describes you or your preferences.
1. Quiet 1 2 3 4 5 Talkative
2. Tolerant 1 2 3 4 5 Critical
3. Disorganized 1 2 3 4 5 Organized
4. Tense 1 2 3 4 5 Calm
5. Imaginative 1 2 3 4 5 Conventional
6. Reserved 1 2 3 4 5 Outgoing
7. Uncooperative1 2 3 4 5 Cooperative
8.Unreliable 1 2 3 4 5 Dependable
9. Insecure 1 2 3 4 5 Secure
10. New 1 2 3 4 5 Familiar
11. Sociable 1 2 3 4 5 Loner
12. Suspicious 1 2 3 4 5 Trusting
13. Undirected 1 2 3 4 5 Goal-oriented
14. Enthusiastic1 2 3 4 5 Depressed
15. Change 1 2 3 4 5 Status Quo