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Tattletale Tats: Tattoos tip prison psychiatrists to trouble


What can tattoos tell psychiatrists about the mental state of prisoners locked up after being judged unfit to stand trial or found not guilty by reason of insanity? Plenty, according to a Michigan Center for Forensic Psychiatry study published in the journal Personality and Mental Health. Body art may be a tip-off that inmates are suffering from antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), a mental condition characterized by, among other traits, a lack of empathy for others, remorselessness about crimes committed, pathological lying, cheating and stealing as well as physical and emotional aggressiveness. Researchers studied a sample of 36 inmates at a maximum security state psychiatric facility and diagnosed 11 of 15 tattooed inmates as having ASPD. The inked inmates were also more likely than their bare-skinned peers to have been sexually abused, addicted to drugs or had attempted suicide. No word on whether the type of art correlated with a prisoner's mental state.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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