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Example: Experiment on women’s perception of tattooed men

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After covering experiments or as a research methods boost when covering attractiveness, pose this hypothesis to your students: Tattoos on men influence how others perceive the men’s health and attractiveness.

Ask students to design an experiment to test this hypothesis, identifying the independent variable (including experimental and control conditions) and the dependent variables. In the design of the experiment, how would students eliminate any potential confounding variables? Circulate among groups as students work through the design. As discussion dies down, ask volunteers to share their experimental designs.

Now share with students the experiment conducted by Andrzej Galbarczyk and Anna Ziomkiewicz (2017) using over 2,500 Polish participants recruited through Facebook; all participants self-identified as heterosexual.

Researchers used nine non-tattooed male models, photographed from the waist up and without shirts for the control condition. “A professional photographer digitally modified the pictures by adding a black arm tattoo with an abstract, neutral design” for the experimental condition. This means that the only difference in the conditions was the tattoo. Participants were randomly assigned to see one photo for each model pair, and in the nine photos seen, each participant saw at least one tattooed model and one non-tattooed model. The dependent variables were ratings of attractiveness, health, dominance, aggression, fitness as a partner, and fitness as a father. Data were analyzed separately for male and female research participants.

Before revealing the results, ask students to predict how the participants responded.

Using clickers or a show of hands, ask students:

Who did women rate as healthier?

  1. Tattooed men
  2. Non-tattooed men
  3. No difference

[Women rated the tattooed men as healthier]

Who did men rate as healthier?

  1. Tattooed men
  2. Non-tattooed men
  3. No difference

[Men didn’t see a health difference between tattooed and non-tattooed men.]

Who did women rate as more attractive?

  1. Tattooed men
  2. Non-tattooed men
  3. No difference

[Women didn’t see a difference in attractiveness between tattooed and non-tattooed men.]

Who did men rate as more attractive?

  1. Tattooed men
  2. Non-tattooed men
  3. No difference

[Men rated the tattooed men as more attractive.]

Who did men and women rate as more masculine, dominant, and aggressive?

  1. Tattooed men
  2. Non-tattooed men
  3. No difference

[Tattooed men.]

Who did women rate “as worse potential partners and parents”?

  1. Tattooed men
  2. Non-tattooed men
  3. No difference

[Tattooed men.]

Who did men rate “as worse potential partners and parents”?

  1. Tattooed men
  2. Non-tattooed men
  3. No difference

[No difference.]

Ask students to volunteer guesses as to why women would see tattooed men as healthier than non-tattooed men. And why men would see tattooed men as more attractive than non-tattooed men. The article’s authors offer a number of possible explanations, all worthy of further research.

 

 REFERENCE

Galbarczyk, A., & Ziomkiewicz, A. (2017). Tattooed men: Healthy bad boys and good-looking competitorsPersonality and Individual Differences, 106, 122-125. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2016.10.051

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About the Author
Sue Frantz has taught psychology in community colleges since 1992, and has been at Highline College in the Seattle area since 2001. She has served on several APA boards and committees, and was proud to serve the members of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology as their 2018 president. In 2013, she was the inaugural recipient of the APA award for Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at a Two-Year College or Campus. She received in 2016 the highest award for the teaching of psychology--the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award . She presents nationally and internationally on the topics of educational technology and the pedagogy of psychology. She is co-author with Doug Bernstein and Steve Chew of Teaching Psychology: A Step-by-Step Guide, 3rd ed.