We write a lot about tattoos here—perhaps because we have Millennial aged kids and at least half of them have tattoos. Okay, more than half. The meaning of tattoos has changed over the years and there seems little stigma still associated with them any longer. The authors of new research on college students (2,394 of them from six different North American public universities, most between 18 and 20 years of age, 67% White and 59% female) opine that a “single rose or zodiac sign [tattoo] is no more edgy today than the Beatle haircut in the early ‘60s”.
In their review of the literature, the authors indicate that tattooed individuals are more likely to be risk-takers and to have a need to express their uniqueness. While historically the opposite, more women (23%) than men (19%) now have tattoos. However, women—in addition to being more likely to have tattoos—are also more likely to seek tattoo removal. There appears to be a relationship between having tattoos and having a history of emotional, physical or sexual abuse and in fact, there is a relationship between having multiple tattoos and also having a history of suicide attempts.
These researchers wanted to update the research on tattoos and well-being and here are some of their major findings:
Females were more likely to report at least one suicide attempt and to have lower self-esteem and more depression.
The number of tattoos on any one individual had no association/relationship to suicidal thoughts (aka ideation) but was related to reports of at least one suicide attempt, to depression, and to self-esteem (higher self-esteem).
Suicide attempts were related to depression and suicidal thoughts. Higher self-esteem was more likely to occur in the absence of suicide attempts.
A fair reading of those two sentences raises some odd questions. How can it be that among those who report depression and suicide attempts there is a boost to self-esteem? It may speak to two (or more) subgroups within the younger tattooed population. So the researchers wanted to learn more—particularly as higher numbers of tattoos have been associated with greater amounts of deviant behavior in past research. So they dug in (statistically speaking) and found a bit more.
The level of self-esteem among those with tattoos increased as they got more tattoos. For example, those with four or more tattoos reported one or more prior suicide attempts (and this was at a rate three times higher than those with no tattoos at all). For women with four or more tattoos, the suicide attempt rate was even more dramatic—almost four times higher than among those without tattoos.
But where does the increased self-esteem enter the picture? Overall, the self-esteem of women was lower than the self-esteem of men participating in the study. (This is not really a news flash since women do tend to report higher depression and lower self-esteem than do men.) However, as the researchers continued to statistically delve into their data, what they found was that while women with four or more tattoos did have a history of prior suicide attempts they were also more likely to have higher self-esteem. It is, say the researchers, as though there is something restorative and life-affirming for women about getting tattooed.
“We know that breast cancer survivors sometimes get tattoos in an effort to express, control, or reclaim ownership of their bodies.”
Perhaps, they say, women who are struggling with depression and/or suicidal thoughts seek out tattoos and imbue the process with meaning or symbolism that elevates their self-esteem and is therefore emotionally restorative. It’s an intriguing statement. And certainly a more positive one than saying that when you have multiple tattoos you are likely deviant.
From a litigation advocacy perspective, this research tells us to, once again, keep up with the times and the changing meanings of tattoos. Rather than a sign of deviance—perhaps that young woman with at least four visible tattoos is a survivor of trauma who has reclaimed her life. And that simple fact may move her from being a juror you might think is anti-social or unreliable, to one with a compelling story and persuasiveness, who can lead a deliberation focused on themes of re-invention, reclaiming the self, and rising above negativity.
Koch, J., Roberts, A., Armstrong, M., & Owen, D. (2015). Tattoos, gender, and well-being among American college students. The Social Science Journal, 52 (4), 536-541 DOI: 10.1016/j.soscij.2015.08.001
Here it is, the penultimate (that means one more is coming!) 2015 collection of things you may find intriguing to know (or not) that we found in our travels but to which we do not choose to devote an entire post. For the most part, these tidbits are based in scientific research and have helped some academic somewhere to obtain tenure. And for that, they deserve to be publicized in some form—right?
Men—are you strangely drawn to women with ponytails?
No? Then you reflect some new research just published in the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology and you likely prefer women whose “hair falls naturally on her neck, shoulders and upper back”. This is one in a series of articles by academic researcher Nicolas Guégen and his female confederates. Guégen (who appears to do some fairly odd research) had the confederates walk down the street with their hair either loose, or in a ponytail or in a bun and had them “accidentally drop a glove”. And they found that men (although not women) were more likely to help women with their hair down (as opposed to those in a bun or ponytail). In the event you are interested, Guégen has also done experiments which prove men prefer women in high heels and that men approach women with larger breasts more often than they approach women not as well endowed. And yes. He has indeed made tenure with this “body of work”. At the risk of digressing, it also leaves us to wonder what organizations funded his research grants.
Solving a problem like an earworm…
We’ve been intrigued with the concept of earworms for a number of years now as previous blog posts attest. What is an earworm? It is something most of us have experienced—in brief, it’s when a song gets stuck in your head and will not go away. For most of us, it lasts briefly (although it may not feel that way)—yet for some, it becomes chronic.
But this has got to be some kind of record! Here’s a woman who’s had the same earworm for more than three decades! It’s just nine notes from a tune she has never been able to name. And as you might imagine, she is writing about the research on how to stop an earworm. She also says none of those techniques worked for her—but in all fairness—she can’t do one of them since she has no idea what the song is from whence her earworm sprang. Another candidate for publication in the Journal of Irreproducible Results.
Are tattooed college student women trying to disassociate from their past?
Speaking of odd topics for tenure—how about college women with tattoos? [And on a completely unrelated note, tattoos are also a topic with which we’ve been intrigued. But when you are faced with a venire full of tattoos, where else are you going to turn for understanding about whether it should matter to your case?] Jerome Koch has made his academic path on the topic of tattoos and college students—starting in 2002 and continuing through the present. In an upcoming article for Social Science Journal (cited below), Koch found that women are twice as likely as men to want to have tattoos removed—presumably in an effort to dissociate from their past. However, the addition of a tattoo could also serve the same desire to dissociate from their pasts. Hmmm. Perhaps you will see a full blog post on that article after all!
You know you’ve been wondering about the evidentiary impact of emoticons and emojis
Well, wonder no more because Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP covers the literature on the issue and even shows us the difference between emoticons (the traditional made from keyboard symbols) and emojis (the modern version of the emoticon—😂—this one is ‘tears of joy’ which apparently has appeared in nearly 1B tweets in the last two years). This is an entertaining and amusing read since they review litigation in which emoticons and emojis prominently feature.
Koch, J., Roberts, A., Armstrong, M., & Owen, D. (2015). Tattoos, gender, and well-being among American college students. The Social Science Journal DOI: 10.1016/j.soscij.2015.08.001
We’ve written a lot about tattoos here and this writeup is going to be a little different from most of our posts. Rather than spending time on the research findings, we want to cite some of the more unusual and surprising findings the author reviews as a prelude to her results.
So, to be brief, the researcher found that Millennials are growing up and yes, they do know tattoos may be frowned upon in some parts of the business world. Further, many of them say that they will consider how able they will be to conceal a new tattoo in business attire as they approach the job market. That isn’t that surprising to us at all. What was surprising was some of the literature the author cited as she reviewed (oh the many) reasons someone should talk to Millennials and make sure they realize tattoos are permanent and may keep them from getting hired.
Here are just a few of the findings she cites in her review of the literature:
There is a Facebook page called “Tattoo Acceptance in the Workplace” which has over 2 million “likes”! (It seems to be more a place to show your art than to talk about the issues related to having tattoos in the workplace.)
A 2012 study showed that customers who have tattoos are more likely to trust salespeople who also have tattoos and that people associate more positive traits to salespeople with “feminine tattoos”.
Another survey completed in 2012 in a rural hospital showed patients did not view male health care professionals with tattoos positively. Caregivers with tattoos are seen as “unsanitary” or “dirty”. It is imagined that the judges of the tattoos are not, themselves, owners of tattoos. No ink-bonding there. Another 2010 health care setting survey resulted in concerns about infection control since tattoo cover ups could hamper good washing of the hands. We imagine that there is concern that some people who cover up tattoos don’t realize that they need to be uncovered for the sake of cleaning skin. An odd concern, we think.
Undergraduate accounting students in 2011 thought accounting professionals should not have visible tattoos (even though 26% of the survey participants had their own tattoos!). Further, those students had less confidence in the tattooed accountant and were less likely to recommend the services of a tattooed accountant.
A man in Pennsylvania sought employment as a “Liquor Enforcement Officer” in 2012 and was told in order to be hired he would have to remove his tattoos. He filed a lawsuit alleging multiple violations and the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld the lower court ruling (for the Defendant) saying “having a tattoo is not a fundamental right”.
Another ruling in 2006 involved lawsuit by several police officers who claimed their police chief did not have the authority to force employees to cover up tattoos because they were “offensive” or “unprofessional”. The court said that public employees may expect to have their first amendment rights more curtailed in order to “promote effective government”.
It is intriguing that self-expression tends to lose in court. Even more so, it is a testament to the power of the tattoo to divide even those with tattoos. Tattoos are going to be judged and they are almost always going to be judged negatively (even by those who also have tattoos)—so if you are a tattooed attorney or have a tattooed client, you may want to cover your own and have your client cover theirs as well while in court.
Foltz, KA (2015). The Millennial’s perception of tattoos: Self expression or business faux pas? College Student Journal
Recently we blogged about an emerging demographic subgroup: the lumbersexual. After reading the flurry of mainstream media articles about this group, here is how we described them:
“As far as we can tell, the lumbersexual is an urban male (typically White and heterosexual) who dresses like a lumberjack even though he is far from a lumberjack. While it is a recognizable fashion statement, there are (as yet) no attitudes, values and beliefs attributed to the lumbersexual. While there is a sense that these are men trying to look “like real men” according to a hyper masculine definition—there is no evidence that their attitudes, values and beliefs would line up with what we think of as stereotypically masculine.”
This was an emerging demographic subgroup observed in society fashion pages and written up in the mass media. We wondered if there would be research emerging to tell us more about the lumbersexual as a group. Are they conservative like the “real men” they emulate in dress or are they hipsters in search of a new look? We did not have to wonder long because, just like that, the academics weighed in with a refinement of the emerging stereotype.
You may notice that the male illustrating this post looks less like a nerd wearing lumberjack clothes and more like a male model with a colorful tattoo sleeve and an untrimmed beard. That is no mistake. The researchers we write about today see the beard and the tattoo (along with any existing piercings) as a way the male decorates himself to be more attractive to potential sexual partners. Yes, these researchers would be of the evolutionary psychology persuasion.
The researchers look at coloration and various “ornamentation” (think orange butts, big brightly colored noses, the beards of howler monkeys, and so on) and related sexual prowess in monkeys of various sorts and then apply their thoughts to human males who decorate themselves with beards and tattoos because, well, it just makes perfect sense to the evolutionary psychologist to make this (gigantic) cognitive leap.
They cite research showing that human males with beards, for example, receive higher ratings of aggressiveness, age and masculinity, but not attractiveness compared with non-bearded men. This means, say the researchers, that other men are cowed by the physical superiority of the bearded man and so they step back which leaves the bearded (and perhaps tattooed and pierced) man more access to the partner of their choice. They also attribute the same level of success to the bald man since baldness is a sign of increased testosterone and thus intimidates other men.
We actually wrote about how bald men cannot help but exude authority, confidence, power, and masculinity back in 2012. [If that sounds crazy, read the post!]
From a litigation advocacy perspective, these researchers would probably say that the bearded (and otherwise adorned male) human would be more of a leader than the non-bearded male human—their rationale would be that from physical observation the bearded male would be seen as more masculine and powerful. They would likely hold the same view of the man with the bald head (or shaved head).
We are not evolutionary psychologists and we beg to differ. Sometimes men with beards are leaders in the jury room and sometimes they are not. It isn’t so much about having or not having a beard or having or not having a full head of hair—it’s about life experiences, beliefs, attitudes and values (one of which may be presenting oneself as a more masculine man), and charisma. Overall, despite this research, we would encourage you to look for other indicators of leadership than the presence of a beard or a bald head (even when both are present in the same potential juror!) as you engage in voir dire and jury selection.
Grueter, C., Isler, K., & Dixson, B. (2015). Are badges of status adaptive in large complex primate groups? Evolution and Human Behavior DOI: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2015.03.003
It’s been more than a year since we first wrote about the “nerd defense”. Essentially, this is the practice of sticking eyeglasses on your allegedly dangerous defendant to communicate their innocence to members of the jury. But now, the Washington Post has finally picked up the practice and we thought we’d mention it again.
Here’s how the Post describes the evolving use of the “nerd defense”.
“Attorneys say inmates trade them before hearings, while friends and family sometimes deliver them during jailhouse visits. Some lawyers even supply them themselves.
They often escape notice — as was the case with another murder defendant who wore glasses with thick, black frames during a summer murder trial. Convicted of first-degree murder in August, his glasses never came up in court.
But the eyewear sported during the trial of Carter and his friends, which began its fifth week in D.C. Superior Court on Tuesday, has attracted attention. Court observers say prosecutors seized an opportunity to suggest to jurors that the defendants were dishonest in misrepresenting their appearance.”
Some would say this is simply another example of defendants cleaning up prior to court appearances–they come in dressed in suits and with haircuts–why not eyeglasses? Others say it is going too far–like the furor over the court order to pay for makeup to cover a defendant’s racist face and neck tattoos in Florida.
But there is a flaw in the strategy that is pretty odd to overlook. The entire premise of the ‘nerd defense’ is based on a distortion of the original research (cited below). The research suggests that jurors perceive the glasses-wearer as being smarter and less threatening, but it isn’t likely to have a significant affect on the verdict. When we initially blogged about the study, it was this misunderstanding that we found most interesting.
“Our line of research suggests that the presence of eyeglasses on a defendant may significantly affect verdict outcome. However, this effect is likely to be small and indirect. In both scenarios, the presence of eyeglasses increased ratings of defendants’ intelligence. For the violent crime scenario, this increase was associated with less guilty verdicts. Eyeglasses also decreased ratings of defendants’ as threatening; however, this decrease was not significantly related to verdict. Thus, how intelligent a defendant appeared was a better predictor of verdict outcome than how physically threatening he appeared. Future research should examine if other indicators of intelligence (level of education, vocabulary, etc.) produce the similar effects.” See the full article here.
In other words, the glasses had a small pro-defense effect. No get-out-of-jail-free magic. Yet, trial lore spreads and criminal defense lawyers have defendants in eyewear for court proceedings.
We don’t think jurors are that easily fooled. Instead, we concur with the commenter on the Washington Post article from whom we stole the title of this blog post: “Glasses can’t hide neck tattoos”! [They can’t hide character, either.]
Brown, M. J., Henriquez, E., & Groscup, J. (2008). The effects of eyeglasses and race on juror decisions involving a violent crime. American Journal of Forensic Psychology , 26 (2), 25-43