Silke Wohlrab, Bernhard Fink, Peter M Kappeler, and Gayle Brewer (2009)

Perception of human body modification

Personality and Individual Differences, 46(2):202-206.

The enhancement of physical attractiveness through body modifications, such as tattoos is evident in a wide range of cultures and has recently become popular also in Westernized societies. Evolutionary psychologists have suggested that these invasive body modifications could possibly act as handicap signals in sexual selection. However, knowledge about the actual signalling quality of body modification and its perception is still scarce. In this present study a sample of 278 men and women rated images of tattooed and non-tattooed virtual human characters for perceived aggression, attractiveness, dominance, health, masculinity (male figures), and femininity (female figures). Tattooed male characters were perceived as more dominant, and tattooed female characters as less healthy compared with their non-tattooed counterparts. Female raters were more likely to perceive tattooed men as healthy than male raters. We discuss these results in view of a potential biological signalling function of tattoos.

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