Tat Will Tell: Tattoos and Time Preferences

55 Pages Posted: 7 Dec 2017

See all articles by Bradley J. Ruffle

Bradley J. Ruffle

McMaster University

Anne Wilson

Wilfrid Laurier University - Department of Psychology

Date Written: December 4, 2017


Forty percent of Americans under the age of 40 have at least one tattoo. Yet survey and experimental evidence suggests that the tattooed are viewed negatively and may face discrimination in the labor market and in commercial transactions. In view of the potentially adverse economic consequences of a tattoo, the decision to get one may be regarded as short-sighted and impulsive. We collect numerous measures of time preferences and impulsivity of tattooed and non-tattooed subjects and find broad-ranging and robust evidence that those with tattoos, especially visible ones, are more short-sighted and impulsive than the non-tattooed. Almost nothing mitigates these results, neither the motive for the tattoo, nor the time contemplated before getting tattooed, nor the time elapsed since the most recent tattoo. Even the expressed intention to get a(nother) tattoo predicts increased short-sightedness and helps to pin down the direction of causality between tattoos and short-sightedness.

Keywords: experimental economics, tattoo, time preferences, impulsivity

JEL Classification: C91, Z10

Suggested Citation

Ruffle, Bradley J. and Wilson, Anne, Tat Will Tell: Tattoos and Time Preferences (December 4, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3082201 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3082201

Bradley J. Ruffle (Contact Author)

McMaster University ( email )

1280 Main Street West
Hamilton, Ontario L8S 4M4

HOME PAGE: http://https://socialsciences.mcmaster.ca/people/ruffle-bradley

Anne Wilson

Wilfrid Laurier University - Department of Psychology ( email )


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