Study Links Anger to Tattoos (And We Call Bullshit)

UK Study reported that “people who have tattoos report higher levels of verbal aggression and reactive rebelliousness." We all know someone who is inked and irritable, but I’m not convinced that the study that links anger to tattoos is definitive in any way.
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Tattoo Study, Viren Swami, Anglia Ruskin University, Anger and Tattoos, study links anger to tattoos, Inked magazine

According to The Guardian, the more tattoos someone has, the angrier they probably are. The study-in-question was conducted by a UK professor of psychology at Westminster, who had indicated that tattooed people had reported higher levels of verbal aggression and “reactive rebelliousness.” But the study, which was kept to 378 adults from London, had only a quarter of their sample who had at least one tattoo. So, who's to say the respondents weren’t just pissy about their rainy weather? Furthermore, how can we determine that those with tattoos were just more honest about their risky behavior?

The study found that 25.7% of those surveyed possessed at least one tattoo, and of those with tattoos, the average number of tat-per-person was 2.5. The study reports that there was “no significant differences between tattooed and non-tattooed participants in their educational qualifications” or a “variety in terms of basic demographics.”

Tattoo Study, Viren Swami, Anglia Ruskin University, Anger and Tattoos, study links anger to tattoos, Inked magazine

The Study

The study was led by Professor Viren Swami of Anglia Ruskin University. The study surveyed 181 women and 197 men, between 20 and 58 years old, asking how many tattoos they had. Then, the volunteers were questioned on four dispositional traits of aggression. These included: physical and verbal aggression, anger, and hostility. This part of the study involved the assessment of how much participants agreed with statements like “given enough provocation, I may hit someone."

Tattoo Study, Viren Swami, Anglia Ruskin University, Anger and Tattoos, study links anger to tattoos, Inked magazine

After the four dispositional traits of aggression portion of the survey, rebelliousness was assessed in two distinct areas: proactive and reactive. Proactive rebelliousness, being, “the active pursuit of rebellious activities for the sake of excitement,” and reactive rebelliousness, being, “the tendency to commit unpremeditated acts in response to disappointment or frustration."

An example of a question for the proactive-aggression segment included, “If you are asked particularly not to do something, do you feel an urge to do it?” An example question from the survey for reactive aggression was, “If you get yelled at by someone in authority, would you (a) get angry and argue back; (b) try hard to avoid an argument; or (c) not sure?

Tattoo Study, Viren Swami, Anglia Ruskin University, Anger and Tattoos, study links anger to tattoos, Inked magazine

Study Results

The tatted adults had significantly higher reactive rebelliousness compared to their clean-skin counterparts, and scored higher in verbal aggression and anger. However, the tattooed group did NOT score higher in the two other traits of aggression: physical aggression and hostility.

When you recall your friend, neighbor, ex, etc. that fits the “inked & irritable” mold, who do you imagine? Surprisingly, the study found that it was women who reported higher verbal aggression, proactive rebelliousness, and reactive rebelliousness than men. The study noted, “It has been suggested that the contemporary mainstreaming of tattooing is eroding differences between tattooed and non-tattooed adults." The study added: "Certainly, the present data would seem to support such an interpretation... tattooed and non-tattooed respondents did not appear to vary in terms of basic demographics.”

Tattoo Study, Viren Swami, Anglia Ruskin University, Anger and Tattoos, study links anger to tattoos, Inked magazine

The Readings of the Study

Swami said, "One explanation is that people who have higher reactive rebelliousness may respond to disappointing and frustrating events by getting tattooed.” Swami explained, “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."

This makes sense for a possible explanation, but it does sound like Professor Swami doesn't have any ink. While some tattoos, for many people, serve as a coping method to transform a life-hurdle into art, most tattoos are representations of happy events.

Moreover, the dimensions of anger the inked-adults scored high in, were verbal aggression and anger. Are tattoos a verbal expression, or a physical expression that typically engages a verbal conversation? 

The study showed no significant differences between tattooed and non-tattooed adults in proactive rebelliousness-- meaning there was no correlation between tattoos and seeking rebellious activities for the sake of thrill. But Swami still hypothesizes that people get tattooed as a response to an event in their lives.

This study may say tattooing is an act of rebellious anger, I say tattooing is being in tune with your body, mind, and soul.

Tattoo Study, Viren Swami, Anglia Ruskin University, Anger and Tattoos, study links anger to tattoos, Inked magazine

Tattooed people are not judgmental towards their clean-skin counterparts, but it seems that the inverse is still true. Do studies like this continue to perpetuate the judgment coming from non-tattooed people?