The Anthropomorphic Research Project's results for their survey at Furry Fiesta 2013 were recently posted (and updated to actually include all the findings), and there's a very interesting section on intergroup interaction, specifically the relationship of bronies and furries:
Q10: How do furries and bronies view one another?
As we've found in previous surveys and in the current survey, approximately 20-25% of the furry fandom self-identifies as "brony". Interestingly, while related to the furry fandom, the brony fandom is also an independent fandom, with many bronies not identifying with the furry fandom. As a result of this, psychological theories (e.g., social identity theory) would predict that because of many of their similar features (e.g. anthropomorphic characters, 18-25 year old male composition, open and tolerant philosophies), bronies and furries may find themselves at odds with one another. This is because the labels of "furry" and "brony" are different, and felt to be meaningful for both furries and bronies. In order to exist as distinct and separate from one another, the two groups may become polarized, amplifying relatively small differences between the fandom and showing disapproval or aggression toward the other group. Some of this has been seen in our previous work.
In replicating our previous work, we asked furries who were also bronies and non-brony furries to indicate their feelings toward furries, bronies, and non-furries (as a comparison group).
Blue bars represent how non-brony furries rated each of the three groups, while red bars represent how furries who were also bronies rated each of the three groups.
Bronies and furries did NOT differ with regard to how positively they rated furries and non-furries (both p >.20). However, they did differ with regard to how they rated bronies, with bronies, perhaps unsurprisingly, rating bronies, as a group, more positively than non-brony furries did, t(302) = -6.14, p < .001.
We also find, unsurprisingly, that both furries and bronies rate furries, as a group, higher than non-furries. What's interesting, however, is how furries and bronies differ in their relative weighting of bronies compared to non-furries. Bronies, again unsurprisingly, rated bronies significantly more positively than the average non-furry, t(63) = 3.97, p < .001. Furries, however, actually rated bronies significantly more negative than non-furries, t(238) = -5.60, p < .001.
In other words, even though, for non-brony furries, both "bronies" and "non-furries" represented members of their outgroup (that is, groups that they don't belong to), bronies were rated particularly negatively, relatively speaking. This provides evidence to support the claim that non-brony furries may feel particular malice for bronies because they are, at some level, somewhat comparable to the furry fandom. Future research may help us to support this hypothesized mechanism.
Two other observations were noticed (not in the figure above), but both representing positive biases in the way we view the groups to which we belong:
- Compared to non-brony furries, bronies thought the average person would view bronies more positively than non-brony furries did (Bronies = 33.1, Furries = 24.9, t(301) = -3.65, p < .001). Put another way, while both bronies and non-brony furries thought that the average person wouldn't have a very high opinion of bronies, bronies predicted that the average person would rate bronies almost 10 points higher than the average furry predicted they would.
- In a similar vein, when asked how positively they thought the average brony felt about the average non-furry, bronies estimated that the average brony would be more positive than non-brony furries did (Bronies: 58.6; Furries: 52.0, t(304) = -2.62, p =.009). This may represent another bias, whereby bronies believe that other bronies are more positive towards others in general, a bias which non-brony furries are less likely to share.
I think this is fascinating. I'd not heard about social identity theory before; it certainly makes sense, though, and it would fit my own experiences and observations of bronies' and furries' views of each other. I sometimes see a surprising amount of disdain for furries among bronies: I'm tempted to call it irrational, and it's particularly remarkable when contrasted with the brony community's usual message of love and tolerance. OTOH, I'l grant that this may also be the reason why it stands out so much in the first place, and of course, as we all know, the squeaky wheels get the grease, anyway.
Similarly, furries' attitude towards bronies can be surprisingly negative — and while bronies looking down on furries could perhaps be explained in terms of the undeservedly poor reputation that furry fandom has among certain groups (young, male, stereotypically "geeky") to begin with, furries looking down on bronies is more difficult to understand: bronies, by and large, don't have a bad rap, and on top of that, MLP:FiM should arguably have significant appeal in principle for furries, anyway.
But looking at the dynamics in terms of people looking for an identity in a group, and trying to set their group apart from other, similar groups neatly explains it.
I wonder if the Anthropomorphic Research Project researchers are in touch with the Brony Study researchers, BTW. A collaboration to better understand the interaction of the two groups (bronies and furries, that is) would be fascinating, although I'm sure they already have than enough to do studying their respective fandoms of interest.