Psychology of a Tattoo

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Gaddiel R. Martinez
Social Psychology
Dr. Farber
February 23, 2010


In this paper, the psychology of Tattoos will be the topic. You will read about the Origin, the process of getting a Tattoo, and the psychological effect on people who get them. You will also read about the people who do not participate in this art and their reaction to those who do. As I did my research I found that getting a Tattoo can be a beautiful experience in your life, while it can also be a label that will mark you forever. They say Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, this specially applies to this case. While some people have pictures of things, moments or people that they wish to never forget, some other people just wear them on their skin for popularity points. In both situations each individual can find beauty as they observe them.

The word Tattoo is said to have two major derivations from the Polynesian word ‘Ta’ which means ‘striking something’ and the Tahitian word ‘Tatau’ which means ‘to mark something’. The history of tattoo began over 5000 years ago and it changes and diversifies as much as the people who wear them. Tattoos are created by inserting colored materials beneath the skins surface. The first tattoos probably were created by accident. Someone had a small wound, and rubbed it with a hand that was dirty with soot and ashes from the fire, once the wound had healed; they saw that a mark stayed permanently. Now a day’s Tattoos are done differently. Your skin is composed of several layers of skin, the outermost layer, which is very thin, is the Epidermis. This is the layer that holds everything in and acts as a protective barrier. Below that is the Dermis. This thicker layer is the 'meat' of your skin, and is where hair is attached. Below this is the Subcutaneous layer which contains fat cells and is the transfer layer between the skin and the bloodstream. Your epidermis is constantly being replenished and if you get too much sun, it turns red and peels. If you get a scratch or cut, it usually heals and goes away. This would not be good for a tattoo. As soon as your skin refreshed itself, your tattoo would be gone! The Tattooist pushes through the Epidermis and leaves the tattoo in the Dermis. Your dermis stays the way it is for your entire life, so a design put there is permanent. If Tattoos are done too deeply, into the Subcutaneous layer they often loose clarity as the inner layers also don’t hold the ink, absorbing it instead of shedding it off. Once the ink reaches the Dermis the bond it makes is permanent. Here are some examples of how permanent a Tattoo really is.

In 1991, a five thousand year old tattooed man, an “Ice man” made the headlines of newspapers all over the world when his frozen body was discovered on a mountain between Austria and Italy. To this day a better corpse has not been found as preserve as this Ice man was. His skin bears 57 tattoos. A cross was found on the inside of his left knee, six straight lines 15 Centimeters long above the area of the kidneys and numerous parallel lines on the ankles. The position of the tattoo marks, suggests that they were probably applied for therapeutic reasons (possibly treatment of arthritis). This specimen dated to be five thousand years old. There have been many more cultures and different people that had shown throughout time their involvement with tattoos.

In Siberia a group of tombs was found, inside were mummies that dated 2400 years ago, these mummies had tattoos in their bodies of animals and other religious symbols which to them had such a great significance that they tattoo them to their skin as a reminder. In Egypt they had also found preserve bodies as far back as the XI Dynasty (2160 BC and 1994 BC) with abstract geometric patterns tattoo to their bodies. In Japan the first written record of Japanese tattooing is found in a Chinese dynastic history put together in 297 AD. The Japanese were...
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