Tattoos are commonplace these days, but society’s attitudes can be slow to change. Two studies published this year suggest that on average, people make more negative judgments about the character of people with tattoos.

Most recently, a study had people view images of people with tattoos. Some of the images showed the tattoos while in others, the tattoos had been digitally edited out.

The study did have a little good news for those with ink. As it turns out, participants in the study perceived the people in the images as more strong and independent when the tattoos were present. This effect was especially pronounced when the people with tattoos were women.

However, on all other character traits, participants rated those with tattoos more negatively. This held for both participants who were college students and those who were recruited from the community, suggesting that some stigma toward tattoos is still prevalent.

An earlier study, published in February of this year, came back with similar results. It showed that participants tended to perceive those with tattoos as both less warm and less competent. This prejudice was more common among older people. However, other factors like people’s political views or even whether people had tattoos themselves didn’t seem to have an effect.

One point worth noting is that both of these studies were done in the United States. No doubt the results would differ in other countries since different cultures have different attitudes toward tattoos. And for what it’s worth, both studies were done in the Midwest, so it’s even possible the results would vary by region in the United States.

That said, the findings indicate that even as tattoos become increasingly popular, they still carry negative connotations in the minds of many people. On the bright side, they apparently suggest strength and independence. But on the other hand, people associate them with a whole range of less desirable traits, from incompetence to coldness.

Image: Flickr/Jhong Dizon