• personality;
  • body modification;
  • ornament


After a long history of negative stigmatisation, the practices of tattooing and body piercing have become fashionable in the last decade. Today, 10% of the population in modern western societies have some form of body modification. The aim of this study was to quantify the demographic and personality traits of tattooed and pierced individuals and to compare them with a control group of individuals without body modifications. These comparisons are based on questionnaires completed by 359 individuals that investigate the details of body modification, and which incorporate five personality scales. We describe several sex differences in ornament style and location. We found no relevant differences between modified and non-modified individuals in relation to demographic variables. This indicates that some of the traditional attitudes towards tattoos and piercings appear to be outdated. However, we found striking differences in personality traits which suggest that body-modified individuals are greater sensation seekers and follow a more unrestricted mating strategy than their non-modified contemporaries. We discuss these differences in light of a potential signalling function of tattoos and piercings in the mating context. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.