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Can you assess juror morality by counting tattoos?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010
posted by Rita Handrich

Maybe you can. While ink on the skin doesn’t mean what it used to (see our post here) it still is a concern for many among us. Body art/ink has become mainstream as evidenced by its presence among a wide cross-section of the population. Even the very educated have tattoos. One of the blogs at Discover Magazine’s website recently uploaded a variety of ‘science’ tattoos which decorate the bodies of scientific researchers. Very amusing.

But parents worry. And so do litigators choosing juries. What do those tattoos mean? There’s research for that! Thanks to researchers at Texas Tech, parents and litigators everywhere can know what those tattoos mean. In essence, tattoos are like real estate: “The key factors are density and location, location, location”.

Here’s what they did:

Researchers counted the number of tattoos and piercings (and noted just where on the body the markings or piercings were located) and then assessed ‘deviance’ (in the form of marijuana use, occasional use of other drugs, being arrested for a crime, cheating on college work, binge drinking, and/or having multiple sex partners).

And here’s what they found:

Those who had 4 or more tattoos, 7 or more body piercings or piercings of their nipples and genitals (which hopefully will be difficult for most parents and litigators to assess) were more likely to report deviant behavior.

To a very significant degree, tattoos and piercing is a sign of style and fashion, rather than rebellion.  Researchers concluded that the growing acceptance of body art means those with truly deviant tendencies have to go a step further (multiple tattoos or nipple piercings) to maintain their sense of social distance. You have to try harder to make it clear that you are an outsider.  So you might be able to assess social alienation and disenfranchisement by counting tattoos, but take it easy on wondering about the ones you can’t see.

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