Date of Award
Objective: This study evaluated perceptions of professional appearance in tattooed versus non-tattooed therapists in a healthcare setting by surveying a cohort of students from a Christian-associated university.
Background: The popularity of tattoos among young adults in America is becoming increasingly popular. Research, however, informs us that although popularity has increased, perceptions of tattoos are still associated with negative feelings and perceptions in the workplace and in religious contexts. Culturally, in America, tattoos are associated with a lower socioeconomic status and education level. Additionally, women with tattoos tend to be judged more harshly, with more perceptions of deviant behavior compared to men with tattoos. In the healthcare setting, healthcare providers are perceived less professional and caring when tattoos are visible. Additionally, female healthcare providers with tattoos are perceived more negatively than their male counterparts. In the workplace, it is often required that employees cover tattoos, especially when working with clients and patients in person.
Methods: Seventy college students from a Christian university were surveyed on their perceptions of visible tattoos on therapists. The survey was designed to measure the extent to which participants are biased toward therapists with or without tattoos. The survey started by showing six images of black and white therapists, male and female, with and without tattoos in a medical setting. Participants were asked to rate their professional appearance on a Likert scale: extremely professional, very professional, 7 somewhat professional, not very professional, not professional at all. Participants were then asked their opinions about tattoos on therapists.
Aim: The aim of study was to evaluate the perception of visibly tattooed black and white men and women therapists. To date, professional perceptions of therapists with tattoos has not been evaluated. Although patient perceptions of tattooed men and women in the healthcare setting have been evaluated, perceptions comparing white and black men and women has not been evaluated.
Results: The rating of professional appearance of each picture was averaged. On average, the white male therapist with no tattoos rated most professional while the white female therapist with tattoos rated the least professional among all therapists pictured. Statistical significance (p<0.05) was adopted throughout. There was a statistically significant difference between the white tattooed male and female therapists, but not the black male and female therapists.
Conclusion: It is the conclusion of this study that white male therapists were viewed as the most professional among all other therapists, male or female, with or without tattoos. The study also revealed that therapists without tattoos, in general, were viewed more favorably than those with tattoos. Further, respondents identifying as Christians rated white males and females without tattoos as more professional than nonChristians rated them. Additionally, Christians and non-Christians alike disagreed that therapists should have to coverup their tattoos while working.
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Swedlund, Catherine Joy, "Expression vs. Expectation: A Look into Patients' Perspectives on Professional Appearance in Physical, Speech or Occupational Therapists with and without Body Art" (2019). Honors College. 63.